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Close, Too Close is an intriguing anthology of queer erotica which explores sexuality and gender beyond traditional possibilities.
Review By Unmana Datta
I was delighted when I learned of Close, Too Close — we are long overdue for some queer erotic fiction; both to bring the lives (especially the sex lives) of LGBT people up towards the centre of “normal” as well as to provide stimulation for queer people (and the rest of us who are not quite queer).
My delight didn’t diminish when I held the book in my hands — it has a beautiful cover and a very interesting piece of art on the frontispiece. The book is edited by Meenu and Shruti, who have deliberately chosen not to use their last names, as a reminder of the stigma attached to being queer.
What did surprise me, when I started reading, is how literary the stories are. This isn’t smut by a long shot—these are beautifully crafted stories of self, love, lust and loss. Chicu writes a wonderfully evocative story about a transwoman who meets with a surprise on her morning routine. Michael Malik G. writes of male friendship and sexual urges—and how the two sometimes meet and sometimes don’t.
Not that there’s nothing to get off to here. Annie Dykstra’s tale of desire consummated in the changing rooms at a pool in a swanky club reads like a fantasy you tell yourself when you’re alone at night. Iravi’s characters play a game in a fantasy of a different sort, where the narrator is tied up and blindfolded and has to guess in turn, which of her friends has just kissed her. But it’s more than a tale of arousal: it’s the friendship among this group of queer people, gay women and transman, that leaves me longing.
Doabi’s tale of the protagonist’s partner in an earlier one-night stand showing up at her door also reads as a fantasy, and makes a strong parallel between food and sex; the narrator and her temporary partner being as interested in the rajma chawal she’s cooking as in their erotic adventures.
Nilofer tells a graphic story (in more ways than one, since her story is told through art and literally not a single word apart from the title) that made me smile. I especially liked the depiction of the woman’s figure, with lank hair still wet from her shower, a paunch, thick thighs, a back that probably looks like mine (except that I don’t have a tattoo). The erotic isn’t just in beautiful fantasies, but also in a simple act of release in your bedroom.
I also loved Devdutt Patnaik’s depiction of homosexual love in what I might term the mythological age (the story was originally intended for inclusion in his book The Pregnant King). Two friends pretend to be a newly-wed couple in order to con a gift of a cow from the benevolent queen, and in the process discover their desire for each other.
There are more stories here, including a couple that transcend consent and made me deeply uncomfortable. One of them made me wonder at its inclusion here, since I do not believe assault is erotic (and if you agree, you might want to skip I Hate Wet Tissues).
But there is so much to like here, and I don’t even have space to mention the other stories (such as Vinaya Nayak’s wonderfully snarky yet tender Screwing With Excess). Go read the book, and enjoy both the haunting beauty of the stories and the rush of pleasure at the graphic descriptions.
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