- First Fiction
Writing about sex is best done with a sense of humour, which is why Eva Moran's Porny Stories is so great. Indeed, this collection of short stories - or flash fictions, or meta-fictions, for we are in the land of formal experimentation - manages to be funny, sexy, and innovative all at once. If the publisher put as much money into proofreading as it did into scouting out talent and designing books, however, readers would have an easier time of it. But I'll save carping for later. Moran's stories are firmly ensconced in, as one of her character saucily puts it, 'this urban fem, post-fem world of eye-candy and boy toys, chick-lit and the New York bitch chic' - which is to say, a world where the girls have fun with language. Narrators update Harlequin romances to the age of online porn, cruise the dating site Lavalife for guys brave enough for forward women, and take boxers to cougar parties (cougars, in case you didn't know, are middle-aged women interested in young men). In 'How to Date a Gay Man,' the reader is advised,
Dress him up in your clothes. Literally - put the clothes on him and take them off him. I did this once with great results. First I set a bet: 'There is no way you can fit into my skirt.' But remember, he's gay: he's been watching his waist-line, you know he'll slip into everything you own but add disbelief to fan his already ferocious flaming flames: 'Well you fit into that one but there's elastic in the waist, there's no way you'll fit into this pencil skirt' and so on. [End Page 198]
I'd say the tone is tongue-in-cheek, but given the anatomical diversity of Moran's character's sexual proclivities, you'd probably slap me. Porny Stories is great fun, and all the more so because of how Moran takes the exemplary literary form of chick-lit - the Cosmo reader questionnaire - and makes it her own. Thus we have stories with the following titles: 'Quiz: Is a Genius Loving You?' 'Are You Dating a Man Ready for Middle-class Marriage?' and 'How an Internet Quiz Saved My Love-Life and Made Me Some Money Too.' Stories have numbered sections, appendices, footnotes, diagrams, and photographs. It's David Foster Wallace meets Lynn Crosbie (who blurbs Moran, quoting the Beastie Boys). And it's all wonderfully up-to-date, with Facebook used as a verb, LOL as an interjection, and UFC mixed martial arts as a connotative code that updates Roland Barthes for the oos.
The mixture is all rather heady (let's just say there's a lot of head in here) but there are some speed bumps. Moran has some lack of control over her material that is not surprising, given the velocity of her prose and the sexiness of her material. A footnote reference to actor Will Smith remarks, 'Now that he is in this quiz, he is no longer just a token in Hollywood. Way to go Will!" Such and other instances try to do too much all at once. More of a problem for this geezer reviewer was the number of typos: especially when you are bringing in current references, you want to spell Cons (as in Converse sneakers) with a capital C; YouTube with both capitals; Jäger to refer to the party drink Jägermeister (not Jagger: James Sandham gets it right in his novel that I review below); and, most egregiously in a Canadian text, deke, not deek. But perhaps the most shocking element in this book that more than lives up to its title: it is dedicated to the author's father.
'Bloodlines,' a standout story in Saleema Nawaz's collection Mother Superior, begins in full gothic feminist mode: 'My sister and I stopped bleeding at the same time.' It turns out that one is pregnant, the other anorexic, as if these are two ways for young Sikh women to deal with their complicated lives in Montréal. The girls' father owns a bagel shop - their mother...