Thrilling, provocative, and unapologetically kinky.

KINK

STORIES

Fifteen tantalizing stories of pleasure, pain, and power.

Bondage. Voyeurism. Dominant-submissive relationships. Public displays. All of these kinks and more are explored in the sexy, star-studded fiction anthology edited by Kwon and Greenwell. In the introduction to their probing collection, the editors write: “By taking kink seriously, these stories recognize how the questions raised in intimate, kinky encounters...can help us to interrogate and begin to re-script the larger cultural narratives that surround us.” The characters in these stories illuminate the ways gender, politics, and cultural norms inform power dynamics—inside and outside the bedroom. The collection’s strength lies not just in the diversity of the writers, but also in the experiences they’re exploring. Kink, desire, and sexuality all exist on a spectrum, and so do these stories. In Kwon’s “Safeword,” a pain-seeking wife and her reluctant husband visit a dominatrix dungeon in Chelsea. Greenwell’s “Gospodar,” which follows a gay man seeking to be dominated, reveals the tenuous nature of trust—and the potential danger of getting more than you bargained for. A trans couple deals with being watched—in their bedroom and community—in Zeyn Joukhadar’s “The Voyeurs.” In an already strong anthology, standout stories include Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror,” about an orphan who finds a home in a radical theater in early-20th century Paris; Brandon Taylor’s “Oh, Youth,” which is about the relationship between a rich, older White couple and the young Black man they’ve hired to live (and play) with them; and Vanessa Clark’s “Mirror, Mirror,” which is set in a “drag transsexual nightclub” and explores the transformative power in being desired exactly as you are (“Sometimes, their basking in my beauty was enough to thrill us both”). The at-times explicit collection won’t be for everyone, but these candid, slinky stories are sure to find their audience.

Thrilling, provocative, and unapologetically kinky.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982110-21-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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