Erotica has blossomed as a genre in recent years, thanks in part to the advent of the e-book and the success of blockbuster novels like Fifty Shades of Grey. There is a tendency to think of erotic fiction as light, throwaway entertainment, but many literary masters have produced works that are as lyrical as they are titillating. If you feel like reading something as mentally stimulating as it is arousing, why not give some of these classics a try:
Anais Nin – Delta of Venus
This short story collection was written in the 1940s for a private collector, and has come to be considered one of the finest works of erotic literature produced in the 20th century. Sexuality in Nin’s work is fluid, ever-present and ever-changing; we meet a colourful cast of characters who explore a spectrum of tastes. This collection has something for everyone, and the stories will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Lady Chatterly’s Lover – DH Lawrence
Famously the subject of an obscenity trial in Britain, Lawrence’s raunchy tale of the well to do wife seduced by the earthy gamekeeper has earned its place in history and our cultural consciousness. There have been many parodies, and some excellent adaptations; the 1993 BBC drama starring Sean Bean is well worth a watch. But nothing beats reading the original.
Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer
America’s very own banned book, it was written in the ’30s but took three decades to find acceptance in the USA. Miller’s meditation on existence while living as a struggling writer in 1920’s Paris is certainly explicit, but also undoubtedly a masterpiece. The modern reader is more used to intimate subject matter and the stream of consciousness style, but while it may be less shocking in the 21st century, Tropic of Cancer remains revelatory.
Erica Jong – Fear of Flying
Jong became a feminist heroine for her frank portrayal of female sexuality in this best-seller, which charts one woman’s journey through Europe and exploration of her frustrated desires. It coined the phrase ‘zipless fuck’, a sexual encounter purely for the sake of pleasure, with no emotional baggage. A controversial classic, it is though provoking but also relentlessly entertaining.
100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed – Melissa Panarello
Translated from the original Italian, 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed is the story of a teenage girl’s sexual awakening and her progression to more extreme sexual experiences. Written in diary form, it attracted attention for its matter of fact approach, challenging the idea that young female sexuality is necessarily tied up in romanticized notions of love and passion. Engrossing and sometimes challenging, it is an ultimately hopeful book that you will want to revisit.
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