Sapphic Traffic by Suki Lee (Conundrum), 192 pages, $14.95 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
suki lee's prose throbs with sen suality while she probes dark and disturbing desires. In Sapphic Traffic's 20 short stories, Montreal-born, Ottawa-based Lee transports her readers from urban Ottawa to the beaches of Montego Bay, along the dusty roads of Bangladesh to a rain-soaked highway in Washington State, into the smoke-filled cafés of Paris and across Amsterdam's cobblestone avenues.
The themes of greed, betrayal and love are universal. The stories, written in lyrical, haunting prose, are narrated in the first person, with the raw, pure honesty of confessionals. Reading them feels like eavesdropping, like standing against a paper-thin wall in a rundown motel, ear pressed to a drinking glass, listening in as a cast of characters confess their deepest, darkest transgressions.
A 20-something lesbian risks her life smuggling hash oil home from Jamaica to please her self-serving lover. A middle-aged woman is burdened with her mentally handicapped brother, whom she despises. A psychiatrist falls in love with a manic-depressive client, and another woman lovingly drowns her lover, who is dying of breast cancer.
What connects the diverse stories is the writing, which is precise, poetic and vibrant. That, and the content. The central characters in all the stories are unabashedly lesbian.
But why do so many of the stories end so abruptly? Lee could have delved deeper, taken her readers further along each character's journey. Often the stories ended just as I was getting hooked.
But the ride is still compelling.
Lee joins the Wilde About Sappho celebration of gay and lesbian literature Friday (February 6). See readings, this page.
Karen X. Tulchinsky is the author of The Five Books Of Moses Lapinsky.