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31 December 2010 @ 03:20 pm
review of Transported  
Catching-up time! Before I go back to work on January 4, I'm writing the reviews I've recklessly promised various people I would write. Here is my review of a book of erotic stories by Sharazade, whose pen name is a variation on Sheharazade (sp?), storyteller of the "Arabian Nights" stories. 


Transported: Erotic Travel Tales
by Sharazade (Fanny Press, P.O. Box 95462, Seattle, Washington 98145).

Stories about sex in exotic locations around the world are a popular trend, but travel in itself is not generally considered sexy -- unless the means of transportation is a limousine (for a short journey) or a well-equipped yacht (for a longer one). This volume of stories by Sharazade, however, takes place in airports, in vehicles, or in out-of-the-way places where the characters are just passing through. These stories are about sex en route to somewhere else, often between people who have just met. The men and women in these stories are free to do things they wouldn’t do in their home towns, since they have been transported out of their everyday lives. The possibilities are intriguing.

The first and last stories in the book, "Schiphol" and "Layover," are about sex in an airport between a female narrator and the man with whom she has a long-distance relationship. Her determination to make the most of a brief reunion is palpable, and she savors every moment. In both stories, the narrator dresses to entice her boyfriend at first glance. Is she simply a convenience for him when he is between flights? Is he a conveniently physical embodiment of her fantasy about being taken by an Alpha male in a semi-public place? Have they discussed actually living together in a place where they both live? The reader isn't told.

In "Flaws," a self-conscious young woman on a long train journey to a job interview in a new city meets a delightfully compatible man who seems to overlook the many physical flaws she thinks she has. She explains:

"Even lovers haven't seen all my flaws. A surprising amount can be hidden by artfully arranging clothing, or holding the body in the right position, or simply turning out the light. I read somewhere that Barbra Streisand won't let anyone photograph her from her left side. The article was trying to make out that she's a bit eccentric, but I know exactly what she's thinking."

During the 47 hours of her train journey, however, the narrator learns how attractive she is to more than one man, and how easy it is to upgrade to a higher-priced compartment (complete with good company) for the rest of the trip. She arrives at her destination feeling confident and optimistic about her future.

"Just Browsing," a finalist in the 2009 Bettersex.com Erotic Fiction Contest, is about the power of visual art to unite two strangers in a bookstore. The female narrator, dressed up for the concert she attended alone in a town where she is between flights, walks into a bookstore which is open in the evening, and is drawn to a book of erotic Japanese prints.

Thinking she is relatively alone, the woman admires the images:

"I stop at one of a woman alone, nude, lying half on her side, half on her stomach, and bound with rough hemp rope."

The narrator is so distracted that "I didn't hear your footsteps until you're almost behind me. I'm tempted to shut the book quickly, but then I'll just look guilty. And it's art, after all, the kind of book one is actually encouraged to browse through. Besides, I assume you're just moving through to some other section."

The narrow aisles, with piles of books on the floor, apparently force "you" (an attractive man) to press up against the narrator. But then she realizes that "you" are admiring the art along with her and making contact. A conversation makes it clear that both characters are aroused and attracted to each other. But how much can they do in a store where anyone could see them? A surprising amount, as it turns out.

The hilarious "Sales Pitch" is told by a young male salesman who offers the reader the straight dope about his job:

"Oh yeah, I work at one of those stores in the airport--you know, with the smart travel bags and cases, the electronic gadgets, the overnight kits, and a thousand things you already have, except that ours are smaller, sleeker, and have the word 'travel' on the packaging, so you'll think that our alarm clock is somehow gonna alarm you more than the one you got for Christmas last year."

The piece de resistance in the store is the "Massage King," a massaging chair that costs $6,000 in U.S. dollars, and which many customers enjoy trying out when they clearly don't intend to buy it. One day, a glamorous "older woman" (by the narrator's standards) stretches out in the chair and responds to it in a way that gives the narrator a boner. When the customer moves on to study the vibrators ("hand massagers"), the salesman sees his chance. He shows that he knows how to make a sale.

                "Onsen," set in Japan, is the story that comes closest to more conventional travel erotica. A woman has gone out of her way to arrange a weekend getaway for herself and her boyfriend, both foreigners working for the same company. She has found what she hopes is the perfect place:

"With my mad Internet skills (and, admittedly, the help of a bilingual friend) I've located what must be one of the only coed onsen left in the area. Years ago these Japanese hot springs offered more bathing pools that men and women could share--lovers, perhaps, but also families." 

The narrator's efforts to bring out the passion in a man who appears cool and remote eventually succeed. After he takes her in the pool (as she hoped he would), there is a moment of quiet rapport:

"We kiss slowly, making eye contact, and I see the affection there that you never speak. I don't say anything either, but I know you know how you complete me."

The strength of these stories is in their realism, their ability to convey the feelings of man-loving women (who can be submissive exhibitionists in the right circumstances) and woman-loving men who know how to make the most of an opportunity. The reader who travels with these characters will discover (or rediscover) that sexual excitement is more of a journey than a destination.   

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