HOT & BOTHERED 4: SHORT SHORT FICTION ON LESBIAN DESIRE edited by Karen X. Tulchinsky (Arsenal Pulp), 240 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Why is so much lesbo porn so unsexy? Reading the latest instalment in BC dyke icon Karen X. Tulchinsky's canon of girl-on-girl lust makes me ask just that. Boasting an impressively diverse roster, including established names like Shani Mootoo, Lesléa Newman and Carol Queen as well as fledgling writers like Suki Lee and Elfie Schumacher, and a no-holds-barred approach that leaves the concept of desire open to interpretation, Hot & Bothered 4 should pack a hefty amount of heat. It doesn't.
That's not to say there's not great material here. Connie Chapman's charming sketch of eager tweeners fumbling through sexual discovery is short and sweet. The description of a grief-addled girl groping for solace in sex with her dead sister's best friend in Mary Davies's Not Here has understated power. Mootoo's Trini patois in Out On Main Street offers a vivid moment of respite from the collection's Eurocentric stories.
They're just not steamy. Graphic descriptions of doing the deed seem either embarrassingly euphemistic or too clinical. Even Queen, the inimitable sex academic, disappoints in the full-on raunch department.
Instead of arousing, Hot & Bothered 4 comes off more like a soft-focus exploration of what women's desire means. And while it can be fascinating to find the common links between these disparate voices, the anthology is bogged down in too many tired coming-out epiphanies and mournful recollections of unrequited love.
Hot & Bothered? Try Cool & Boring.