Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happiness Is a Bookish Hamster

Hooray! Rock My Socks Off is a staff recommendation at Berkeley, California's Pegasus Books! I feel immensely honored.

Quoth the adorable, accessorized hamster:

Imagine the delightful silliness of a 1930’s screwball comedy, add the twist that the protagonists (and their friends) get to have a lot of really great sex, dress it in prose that dazzles with wit and intelligence, with Nicholson Bakeresque wordplay and oh so groanfully delicious punnery, and you’ll begin to get a taste of
Rock My Socks Off. Everything about this novel scintillates, from the vibrant streets of current day San Francisco to the sparkling banter of the central pair of lovers which artlessly weaves the narrative together. To crown it all: the sex scenes are genuinely sexy—imaginative, explicit without being pornographic, always good fun. So hang on to your socks and enjoy the ride!

Wow—now there's a hamster who really gets what I'm going for! I am so thoroughly chuffed by her praise.

Speaking of Nicholson Baker: Baker, as it happens, was the subject (not the author) of a recent New York Times piece at which many of us took umbrage (because of how the article's author—again, not Baker—stereotyped erotic-fiction writers). In the course of discussing this on Shanna Germain's blog, I mentioned that I loved Baker's early-1990s erotic novel Vox, saying also that I thought the book had had an influence on my own style. And now, while I'm glowing with pride from having seen Baker's name mentioned in an RMSO write-up, I'd like to elaborate a bit on what Vox meant to me.

I believe Vox was the first thing I'd ever read that fully embodied what I'd always especially wanted a work of erotic fiction to be: an expertly and cleverly written, unabashedly sex-positive and sex-focused tale of sweet, likeable, intelligent, articulate, witty, self-aware contemporary characters making a connection with words and personalities and play and sex . . . tenderly but cheerfully indulging their lust and fulfilling each other's needs.

Whew! That's a lot to say.

It's a lot to ask.

But this was what I especially wanted to read. This, ultimately, was what I wanted to try to write. I knew I could never match Baker's prowess, but he had demonstrated that the general approach I'd longed for could work.

Now, knowing what I do today, I realize that by the mid-1990s, when I discovered Vox (several years after its publication), we already had story collections assembled by Susie Bright and Marcy Sheiner and Maxim Jakubowski, and novels by people like Alison Tyler and Portia Da Costa. But in the mid-1990s I was only vaguely aware of these trends, and I really hadn't done much exploring down those avenues. Had I been more familiar with the blossoming literary-erotica scene, I would no doubt have seen numerous works that fulfilled my personal desiderata. But I wasn't and I didn't, and therefore Baker's book was a revelation.

I think Baker's influence on my writing voice is a subtle one. I certainly never set out to imitate him, and overall we differ more than we resemble one another (even apart from considerations of prowess). By the time I began writing erotica for publication in 2005, Vox was only a part of the literature that was inspiring me—I'd been reading a lot of Clean Sheets and Mammoth in the early aughts.

But it made me very, very happy when the hamster saw a similarity.


Shanna Germain said...


My nickname's 'Chilla. Rodents rule! :)

Justine Elyot said...

Fantastic! I devoured Vox when it came out - I really ought to go back and re-read. You've inspired me.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Hey, Shanna! "Rodents rule!" indeed.

So we get to call you "'Chilla" now? I could definitely get used to that.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Happy re-reading, JE! : )

Sharazade said...

A "Miss Marjorie Must"! Miss M. has good taste. ;)

I've never read Vox, but on the strength of this recommendation, I now would.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Miss M. has good taste. ;)

Thanks, Shar!

By the way, I was wondering what a hamster carries in her purse, but I think I have the answer: reading glasses, of course.

Confidant said...

What a terrifically "scintillating" chunk of praise! Pegasus must have had you walking on air! And what a delightful blog rumination (wait -- do hamsters chew the cud?)

Jeremy, every single day at least one of your inimitable turns of phrase pops into my head and turns a dramatic moment into a seriocomedy, if not an outright farce. I can't begin to express my gratitude for how you've technicolored my life.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Pegasus must have had you walking on air!


You know, the word "Pegasus" (or rather "Pegasuses") actually appears in Rock My Socks Off.

Jeremy, every single day at least one of your inimitable turns of phrase pops into my head and turns a dramatic moment into a seriocomedy, if not an outright farce. I can't begin to express my gratitude for how you've technicolored my life.

Wow, Confidant, thank you a thousandfold for this generous tribute! I'm blushing in technicolor!

Emerald said...

Very cool post, Jeremy, and congratulations on RMSO being a staff recommendation! How fabulous!!

I was unfamiliar with Baker's work before the recent article debacle—aside from the tone of the article, though, I found it interesting and felt/feel intrigued by Baker's work. Like Sharazade, I am now further so after reading your perspective about Vox. :)

Jeremy Edwards said...

Thanks, Emerald!

Very glad to point people toward Vox. Not that Mr. Baker needs my help, natch. : )

Janine Ashbless said...

Cool, Jeremy! And you deserve the praise.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Thank you, Janine! : ) : )