Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real SexSugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex
Edited By: Erica Jong
ISBN: 0061875767
June 2011

Reviewed By: Lisabet Sarai

Let me be clear at the outset. Sugar In My Bowl is not a collection of erotica. Although the book includes a few short stories, most of the twenty-nine contributions are essays concerning various aspects of sex. There's also a wonderful theatrical piece (a “triologue”) that reads more like poetry (“Skin, Just Skin,” by Eve Ensler), a pseudo-scientific parody on the influence of sex toys and guides, complete with footnotes (“Best Sex Ever: A Systematic Guide with Meta-Analysis” by Jessica Winter), and a hilarious sequence of drawings about having a clone of oneself, with a cock (“Cock of My Dreams: A Graphic Fantasy” by Marisa Acochella Marchetto). The pieces range from wistful to hysterical, lyrical to analytical, as each author does her best to fulfill the editor's instruction to write about the “best sex you've ever had.”

Despite the subtitle, the contributors to this volume are a highly selected subset of “real women,” mostly writers, often feminists. The roll includes such luminaries as Fay Weldon, Susie Bright, Susan Cheever, Eve Ensler, and Ms. Jong herself. As a result, their offerings tend to be literate, articulate and insightful. Their individual approaches to their “assignment” vary greatly.

In “My Best Friend's Boyfriend,” Fay Weldon, at 79, describes losing her virginity at the age of eighteen and discovering, after a childhood of ignorance and prudishness, how much she loved sex. She notes that in 1949, there was no contraception, no abortion. Sex could destroy your life. As a result, she comments, sex was a dangerous thing, far more interesting and erotic than it is now.

Liz Smith writes about her first time, too, in “Going All the Way.” She evokes the sexist, racist, anti-intellectual attitudes of nineteen thirties Texas, describing one luminous night with her first cousin that was never repeated.

Some of the contributors paint searingly erotic pictures of relationships where passion mingles with darker things: anger, fear, addiction, doubt.  “The One Who Breaks My Heart” by Rosemary Daniell chronicles her multi-decade affair with a troubled man who was unquestionably her soul mate, despite his faults.  In “Do I Own You Now?” Daphne Merkin describes a summer in her youth, where she was supposed to be working at a prestigious writers' colony but instead was sneaking off to New York City to be with her moody, possessive lover.  It couldn't last, of course, that kind of is-this-love-or-is-this-hate entanglement, but I swear it makes my brain smoke just to consider it all these years later.

Many of the women consider their own sexual selves in the context of their parents. Julie Klam, daughter of sexually permissive nudists, titles her piece “Let's Not Talk About Sex.” Now a mother herself, she begs to be relieved of the need to tell her daughter about the facts of life. She writes:
If evil governments are really looking to torture prisoners, they should forget about waterboarding and just have them sit in a room beside their parents having loud sex. I'd talk!

In her more meditative essay, entitled “Somewhere I Have Never Traveled, Gladly,” Meghan O'Rourke discusses the influence of her parents' sexual history on her own. At the age of seventeen, her mother eloped with her twenty two year old Latin teacher from her Catholic school (Meghan's father). Interspersing this romantic yet shocking tale with her own sexual awakening, Ms. O'Rourke contemplates the similarities and differences across the generations.

Perhaps the most pointed generational contrast comes from Molly Jong-Fast, the editor's daughter.  Her essay, “They Had Sex So I Didn't Have To,” marvels at the fact that she's married, with three kids and a sexually-conservative, non-experimental life style, despite being the child of the woman notorious for having invented the zipless fuck.

Almost every piece in this book has something to offer. My two favorites, I think, were the very different essays by Jean Hanff Korelitz (“Prude”) and Susan Cheever (“Sex with Strangers”). In some sense these two authors are at opposite poles of the sexual spectrum.

Ms. Korelitz writes about her life-long discomfort talking about sex. Despite being a prude, after having her “serious” novels rejected again and again, she spends her two weeks at a writers' workshop penning a graphic erotic novel. When she publishes it under a pseudonym, this somehow breaks the barrier. She goes on to multiple successful  novels, but she can't forget the shameful fact that her first publishing credit was a dirty book.

While I can't begin to identify with her attitudes toward the erotic, I found her insights into the experience of authorship surprisingly congruent with my own. Writing fiction has always been something of an out-of-body experience for me, and it isn't at all unusual for me to read a sentence from one of my published novels and not have the slightest memory of having composed it. That's exactly how I feel, when I reread my work – except that I'm not embarrassed by its content.

Ms. Cheever's essay captures the thrill and occasional transcendence of sex with strangers. One night stands can be spiritual in another way: they can be sex without expectations. They are a leap of faith because you never know quite where they will lead. I know exactly what she's talking about. In her case, a one-night stand turned into a multi-decade, married relationship.

Sugar In My Bowl includes many other notable contributions. While most are not physically arousing (there are a few exceptions), you'll find much to stimulate your intellect and emotions – and occasionally your funny bone. I recommend the book highly.