"Nickel City Nights" samples erotic writing in WNY
"Nothing manifests the conflict of being human like sexuality. We are simultaneously drawn to sex and repulsed by it, aroused and ashamed of our arousal, liberated by sexual experience but tangled in its complex rules, implicit and explicit," writes editor Gary Earl Ross in his introduction to Nickel City Nights: Erotic Writing in Western New York, a new anthology that receives its official book launch with a reading and book-signing tonight at 7 p.m. at Talking Leaves Books, 3158 Main St. in Buffalo.
On hand will be several of the 62 contributors to this 170 page anthology published by The Writer's Den publications, including many of the Buffalo area's best known and most widely published poets, playwrights, and prose writers. Dedicated to the late Rosemary Kothe, the Buffalo based poet who prior to her death in 2005 drew an entire generation of Western New York writers out of their repressive shells, Nickel City Nights grew out of "Desire by Design" an 1990's era Just Buffalo Literary Center sponsored writing workshop series led by Ross and an annual reading of erotic writing by Buffalo area authors hosted by Karen Lee Lewis that succeeded it.
What is it that makes a particular kind of writing "erotic" as opposed to say, "clinical" or "analytical"? It's worth noting that not a single one of the contributors to Nickel City Nights can be thought of exclusively or even primarily as a writer of "erotica," not even Ross, an award-winning mystery and suspense fiction writer, playwright, essayist and UB professor whose story collection The Wheel of Desire and Other Intimate Hauntings (2000) combined tales of erotic fantasy with elements of supernatural fiction in a mix so seamless and narratively concise as to possibly make even Anne Rice envious.
Although this is a regional compilation, there is little here that ties it specifically to the climate, geography, culture or even the sexual etiquette of the Buffalo area. Instead Ross's approach is humanistic and his scope universal: "It is no wonder people have always tried to understand the machineries of their own desires, in everything from cave paintings to fertility carvings, from Renaissance sculptures to modern nudes," he writes. "[In erotic writing] Language is an extension of that effort to get control of something contradictory and elusive by defining it, picturing it, framing it, naming it...But sex [inevitably] defies control and categorization."