THE WAY OF THE WHORE by Tamara Faith Berger (Gutter Press), 182 pages, $17.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
Tamara Faith Berger's first erotic novella, Lie With Me, was a hot topic in the (yawn) art-versus-porn debate. For me it was simply hot. But some mainstream media, including the Globe and Mail, questioned the moral implications of government funding for such a book. Inevitably, the buzz, both good and bad, made a lot of readers take notice of this unique new talent. Rumours have floated that the author's name is a pseudonym for a male writer, but the rumours are delightfully wrong. A strong female literary voice that approaches sex without blushing and stumbling through overused metaphors is something to celebrate.
A former sex writer for magazines like Buttime Stories and Bump & Grind, Berger knows how to go hard or go home. Boldly treading well-worn male terrain, The Way Of The Whore is just as straight-up dirty as Lie With Me, but the writing is stronger.
Don't fall for the sensationalistic and dumbed-down blurb on the back of the book, which reduces the story to a tale about an introspective girl who gets into stripping and falls for a John. Berger's examination of the archetypal slut is more developed and provocative than that.
She presents a character unfazed by the exchange of money for sexual services at an early age and rips through the comfortable netting of the typical victim narrative.
Mirah is a complicated, stubborn and passionately infuriating narrator. Loosely based on the story of St. Mary of Egypt, a prostitute who revelled in her sexuality before repenting, this modern-day hooker memoir is more poetry than movie of the week.
Even if it doesn't turn you on, it will make you think, and if it does both, what more could you ask for?