Broken Pencil has published my review of Coming & Crying in their latest issue, which is out now. However, I noticed that they’ve made some edits to the piece that clip it off too closely for my liking. Here’s my original review it its entirety and, as usual, you can pick up BP at your favourite local bookstore.
I’d originally heard about Coming & Crying in its nascent days as an internet project – Gira Grant and O’Connell were attempting to use a crowd-sourced model of fund-raising to publish a book of true sex stories with collaborators largely drawn from their online communities. While the fund-raising project was interesting to me – using a model that’s most often been attached to things like bands making records – the focus of the book itself was also tantalizing. It’s a beautiful thing, right from Nikola Tamindzic’s arresting cover photo (which drew a lot of eyes when I read this book on my trips around town). The stories contained within are a mixed lot – the premise being that they are products of the internet, a landscape that encourages both certain kinds of emotional transparency and reportage, so the details you get are not necessarily “erotic, but true”. Stories wither or explode at the wrong moment, move from humour to anxiety, or leave you feeling weighted.
I was impressed with the variety of relationship circumstances and ways we use sex that were covered – straight, queer, fetish or pain focused, sex for pay, sex to grieve, first times, last times. The emotional transparency and deviation from usual linear trajectories of writing on sex gives every piece in this book a depth of tenderness. Peter Raffel recounts his first kiss as “sweet but also scary, like the butterflies in [his] stomach had exploded out of [his] mouth in some bizarre form of throw up”. Gina De Vries has a hot mommy/boy scene worked out with her lover that comes to a screeching halt, leaving her sending text messages to check in if she went too far. Douglas Wolk’s blowjob from his boss ends in her sending him email apology letters. People get annoyed, get bored, chide themselves for using the internet to look for connection, or find love for five minutes when they least expect it.
When I was telling friends about this book, several people asked ‘But did the stories turn you on?’. I don’t know if I’d call it that. These are stories that made me want to have sex, certainly, but more so just be close to people, intimate in the way you can be when naked. They all name the immediate negotiation of someone else’s body against yours and the ways it changes you.