‘Anonymous Sex’ sees 27 writers exploring the erotic without being known

No Comments

Within the pages of Anonymous Sex, 27 writers have congregated to tell tales of the erotic. Readers, however, won’t know which writer penned which story. Aside from an alphabetical list of author names, there’s no other real indication of identity. A truly anonymous anthology is born.

The seeds for the book, co-edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Hilary Jordan, were planted in 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic. Amidst rising isolation and uncertainty, the pair decided to put together “brilliant, erotic short stories” from writers around the world, each also contributing a story.

The other 25 writers who have contributed to Anonymous Sex, untied from their names within the book, have innumerable accolades under their belts. The list includes the award-winning Edmund White, famed for stories of LGBTQ love; Man Booker-shortlisted poet Jeet Thayil; Guggenheim fellow Victoria Redel; journalist and GLAAD Award-winner Meredith Talusan; Iranian novelist Dina Nayeri; and award-winning and Booker-shortlisted Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma.

The contributors won’t be able to reveal the exact story they’ve written until a year and a half after the publication date.

As Tan and Jordan write in the introduction, sex can either be a part of the “upheaval” in our lives, or a “grounding force” in general. “Either way, it’s a connection many of us both want and need, a way to reach across the divide and know that we aren’t alone,” they write.

The book’s collection of stories explore the many threads of this idea across genres. There’s the thrilling, the melancholic, the lonely, the attached – and even the supernatural. Yet the actual sex that the anthology centers is spliced between musings on seduction, sexuality, relationships, desire, and unbridled human emotion. In each story, though, there’s an overwhelming message of sex positivity, bolstered by a space free of judgement.

SEE ALSO:

Shani Silver is tired of the narrative around singlehood. Read an extract from her book ‘A Single Revolution’.

In “Altitude Sickness,” for instance, the author creates sketches of people across the world, each in relation to flying in some capacity, set in airports, planes, and even the car rides on the way. Inside each snippet of their lives, readers briefly witness a character navigating a relationship, a kiss, or an experience with love. The first part of the story focuses on a woman on a flight from Brisbane and the story circles back after many journeys to the same woman, finding herself on yet another flight. Throughout, the writer ties sexual desire and longing to the feeling of flight, and the eventual return to the ground.

Here’s an extract of this particular story, adapted from the original, and just one of the many in the anthology that deserve to be read. The author? Who knows?


Altitude Sickness — from Anonymous Sex

The Making of Alice – Brisbane 

Like a woman in a dream she boiled the eggs and burned the toast and laid out plates and cutlery. Washing up, she gazed out at the garden and saw a penny lizard emerge from the short grass near the water sprinklers. The flecks on its slender chocolate body seemed to expand and contract as it crossed the tiles leading to the arbor. She watched as its skin turned red as the stone. Lizards are the future, she said aloud. How she wished to be one. She showered, dressed, called a taxi, and said the usual words to her husband as she left the house, none of it real, not the words or the leave-taking or the setting forth, nothing real until she was in her seat for the twelve-hour flight to a city where the sun set at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was only then, in the air, that her senses returned and she knew her own appetites. She ordered a drink and sipped it slowly and examined the menu as the heat from the liquor mounted in her face. The taste of bourbon on her tongue, this was real to her, and her own scent that rose in brief distinct wafts, the jasmine roll-on she had placed on her inner wrists when she climbed into the taxi’s smell of cigarettes and air freshener. When she asked for another drink, the man at the window seat told the attendant he wanted one too. Then, to Alice: here we are, defying gravity and waiting for whiskey, I think it’s dismaying and marvelous at the same time. She didn’t reply, only glanced at him and looked away. He wore old-fashioned horn rims and his stubble was white at the chin and near the ears. As if continuing a conversation with himself he said he always wondered if air travel brought him closer to God or further away. The drinks trolley returned and they were served in identical glasses with bowls of roasted peanuts and wasabi peas. She took a sip and felt the liquor burn its way past her chest into her belly, and how infinitely tolerable it was now to be alive, how pleasurable, how real at last. She said: closer, perhaps the only thing that brings us closer to God is when we’re unmoored from the world. Unmoored, he said, that’s the correct word for when you’re thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean. What a relief it is for me to be unmoored. His accent was middle European, or Belgian possibly, or Dutch, she wasn’t to know. He kept twisting the band on his ring finger, as if to draw attention to it. And later, after the meal and the dimming of the lights, when he placed his hand on hers she did not pull away but leaned into his scent of Old Spice, the cologne her father had used his whole life. She took the man by the jaw and kissed him hungrily, as if she had not been kissed for a long time. She covered his mouth with hers. He grabbed the hand rests in fright and pulled away. Unmoored is another name for freedom, she said. What I want to know is, how free are you? Can you show me? 

Tony Supersonic – Somerset 

It was well known among a certain class of person that Tony only wrote poetry while flying. Correction: he only wrote poetry while flying Concorde. He’d tried other airlines but it didn’t work, not in economy and not in first class. The lines he ended up with were stroppy rather than bold, helium rather than liquid hydrogen, no liftoff, no payload, no sex. It was equally well known among a certain class that only while flying Concorde was Tony able to achieve an erection. As the plane reached the speed of sound, surpassed and doubled it, the lines would flow from his pen and his old man’s penis would swell with a young man’s blood. At the peak of his sexual life he flew from London to New York and back twice a month. When he heard they were retiring the aircraft, he was filled with such dread that he paused his business, canceled long-standing plans and hastily made new ones. He booked two seats from JFK to Heathrow and invited an old friend to join him, the actress who had first come to prominence when he was a young man, her famous cleavage and bee-stung pout on the cover and centerfold of the best men’s magazines. It was October and the leaves were aflame, immolating themselves in the early sunshine, curling into yellow ash on the windshield of the BMW that took him to the airport. The driver sat impassive in his black suit and hat. Tony rode in the back as in a hearse, a dedicated passenger and scholar of the Concorde, the golden creation of the golden age of flight; and now here he was, in attendance at the death. It was the passing of the age of aspiration and nothing would be the same again. As he left the limousine and approached the counter at the airport, the sense of mourning that had gathered around him lifted slightly, and when Joan arrived, breathless, tottering, smelling of vodka and bergamot, he was unaccountably cheered by her tired eyes and expensive, outdated makeup. He saw her as she had once been, the starlet with the vertiginous eyebrows and unsmiling allure. When the great bird lifted into the sky it came to him in waves, the thrill of velocity, the fiction of gravity, the infinite lift, the sex (EXHILARATION = ACCELERATION, he wrote in his teal Concorde-only notebook), and he loved her as he had always loved her, without haste or understanding.

The Making of Alice – Kuala Lumpur

She signed up for frequent-flier miles and used them immediately. She flew too often for the free miles to make a difference. In between flying for work she flew for pleasure, without telling her family or colleagues, sometimes taking a return flight within hours. Some weeks she spent more time in the air than on the ground. One morning in Lucerne she typed ‘best flight booking sites with metasearch’ into the search window and found a message board and a community of people who flew all the time, purely for the pleasure of flight, who found the cheapest options from a seemingly limitless range and chose whichever destination took them farthest from their lives. And so she flew, for work, for pleasure, and for no reason at all, meeting others like her, men and women, in cities strange and familiar. In and out of Changi a few times a year, she came to know its butterfly park, a high forest bubble hidden among the endless walkways of the airport, and she learned the habits of the koi in the display ponds on the upper level. She took a seat on a curved bench and stared at the fish as they traversed the small space, the gorgeous blotches of orange and black, the speed at which they moved, submarining through the supreme element, breathing through their wide-open mouths, dreaming, she knew, of water; and she marveled at the easy synchronicity with which they paralleled and crisscrossed each other. On a beach in Vietnam she made the mistake of getting into the water, where she found garbage from all over the world, massed plastic detritus roiling in the foam, snaking against her feet. The water was brownish, with the rough solidity of oil, and she felt its strange and far-flung components break against her skin. What was there in those brownish or greenish wavelets that could harm her? This is what your body asks your brain when you feel no fear. From Singapore she flew to Kuala Lumpur, stayed one night in a backpackers’ hostel, and booked a flight to Beijing because she found a heavily discounted ticket and had never been to China. At three in the morning she woke, thinking of the man she had met on the flight from Brisbane to Berlin, the flight that would determine the trajectory of her life. In the morning she walked to the central station and took an express train to the airport. The woman across from her held a small girl on her lap to whom she fed segments of an orange. The child stared at Alice, at her white blond hair, and began to cry. It wasn’t until Alice smiled and took her small hands in hers that she stopped, though it seemed as if the tears might return at any moment. She rested her head against the seat and fell asleep and woke as the train came to a halt. Outside, the night was humid and reeked of intimacy in enclosed spaces. There was a little over an hour until her flight. She rushed through check-in and security and was one of the last people to board. From her seat she saw the luggage van, the busy tarmac lit up like a small city. And then the Boeing 777 shuddered into the sky. She was sipping her second whisky when she felt the plane swerve in the air, dizzyingly swerve and brake, and she thought it would stall and drop out of the sky, but it righted itself somehow, though the sea was no longer where it had been and then there was no land, only sea. What happened, a man said, his voice high with fear. This is normal, right? Is this normal? An attendant rushed down the aisle towards the cockpit, followed by another, and then the pandemonium began, the shouting and the cries. The man beside her calmly opened a pillbox and swallowed two white pills without water. He gave her the box when she asked. To steady the nerves, he said. The plane began to climb and gained altitude at a sickening speed. The curtain at the front was pushed to the side. A family ran in from business class clutching at each other. She felt anxiety rise like bile to her throat. A mass of passengers joined the attendants at the door to the cockpit, knocking with their fists, then kicking. But the door was firmly shut and no answer came from inside. Someone started to pray or moan, a low keening noise that rose to a shriek and abruptly died. The navigation map on her screen buffered and went dark, then put them on a route to Antarctica. She grabbed the man’s hand and kissed him without shame as the plane began to tilt. 

Anonymous Sex is out through Scribner in the U.S. for $18(opens in a new tab) and HarperCollins in the UK for £14.99(opens in a new tab).

Related Video: Buying a sex toy shouldn’t be intimidating. We’ll show you how!


https://mashable.com/article/anonymous-sex-book-excerpt

Categories: Reviews

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.