Banks departs from psychokiller suspense (The Girls on the Row, 1983; Patchwork, 1986) to offer an earnest if often wearisome sampling of ``erotica''—ingenuous tales first published in Penthouse International, Slow Hand, Yellow Silk, etc. In ``Salon Satin,'' a housewife copulates with Satan in order to lose weight; in ``The Faithful,'' a middle-aged husband contemplates a sexual tryst in an elevator while his wife flirts with naked salesmen in a carpet shop; and in ``Zap!,'' a woman uses roach poison to stimulate sexual fantasies. What Banks's brief tales have in common is a sudden, startling manifestation of eroticism in the midst of unstimulating, blue-collar worlds. Moving restlessly from trailer park to motel room to health club, invoking supernatural forces as needed to stoke up the flames, and laboring valiantly to build these self-termed ``punch-line stories'' to a satisfying last-line release, Banks manages to find impressive erotic potential in a corpulent woman's thoughts on Michelangelo's David, a farm girl's admiration for a wild deer, and a lonely woman's romantic apprenticeship to her video-exercise coach. The thrill of such primitive sexual fantasies may in many cases be clearer to the characters than to the reader, but Banks does occasionally manage to find a real spark in settings where others would never think to look. ``Tart'' and ``elegant'' are misnomers. Banks's strength, if there is one, lies in her artlessness; those seeking champagne and leather should keep moving.
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