There’s no such thing as good smut or bad smut. There’s only smut that works for you and smut that doesn’t. Tastes vary, as a quick cruise around the vast ocean of Internet erotica will confirm. If your tastes run to threesomes and foursomes involving beautiful, affluent, sexually voracious Atlantans of West Indian heritage, then Eric Jerome Dickey’s novel Pleasure (Dutton, 400 pp., $24.95) may well be your idea of a great sexy read. Dickey’s previous novels have certainly done the job for a lot of people. He’s seen 11 titles hit The New York Times best-seller list.
Pleasure is the story of Nia Simone Bijou, a professional ghostwriter who has moved to Atlanta to get away from a persistent ex-lover—a great guy who just didn’t do it for her sexually. Sex is important to Nia, to put it mildly. “If I was a man, I would exist in a constant state of erection,” she tells us. Just her luck, she goes jogging and happens upon identical twins, each a perfect “golden Mandingo.” They’re more than willing to entertain her, and they introduce her to other gorgeous folk who are also willing. There are complications involving the pesky ex, among others, but the novel consists primarily of nonstop bed Olympics, with brief introspective interludes by Nia.
The sex in Pleasure is graphic, but Dickey is clearly aiming for literary erotica. Nia likes to pepper her sexual banter with references to Anaïs Nin and Simone de Beauvoir. She admires the Kama Sutra and insists on using “lingam” and “yoni” in place of cruder words for male and female genitals. This works pretty well in the steamy passages, but gets a little awkward in more prosaic moments. Nia’s remark that her “yoni wanted a Motrin” somehow fails to enhance the sophisticated aura Dickey is trying to give her.
Dickey does best when he sticks to writing hot sex, which in Pleasure is heavy on cunnilingus and other female-friendly practices. Artistic pretensions don’t prevent Dickey from knowing who buys his books, and what works for them.
Dickey will read and sign Pleasure at Davis-Kidd Booksellers 7 p.m. on Friday, April 4.
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