Bad­lands Un­lim­ited’s New Lovers se­ries

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Mónica de la Torre

You don’t have to be a con­nois­seur of erot­ica to rec­og­nize its tropes: wet, swelling pussies; bud­ding breasts; hot, tight holes; mas­sive rods ... Do they seem all the more worn- out be­cause they’re aimed at con­vey­ing sex­ual stamina? Their re­cur­rence is such that you have to won­der, too, if: a) they’re meant to warn un­be­knownst read­ers that they’ve ven­tured into soft­core porn ter­ri­tory; b) the genre it­self re­quires writ­ers to ven­tril­o­quize its con­ven­tions (as is the case with other genre fic­tion, e.g., mys­ter­ies); c) men­tions of gen­i­talia would be less tit­il­lat­ing with­out their ac­com­pa­ny­ing ep­i­thets; d) there’s no other way to de­scribe those parts of the hu­man anatomy most prone to dis­play arousal and en­gage in car­nal ac­tiv­i­ties; or e) all of the above. There are surely more op­tions, all point­ing to in­tri­cate mat­ters of rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the core of writ­ing that deals ex­plic­itly with the am­a­tory arts, since most of its po­tency de­rives from vivid de­scrip­tion. For it to be ef­fec­tive, it is es­sen­tial that the reader be able to vi­su­al­ize what is re­layed.

And so it is that read­ing the New Lovers tril­ogy, pub­lished this spring by Paul Chan’s im­print Bad­lands Un­lim­ited, in­volves some care­ful reread­ing of para­graphs (imag­ine dense in­struc­tion man­u­als) to pic­ture the me­chan­ics of the sce­nar­ios pre­sented—the most novel of which are, ob­vi­ously, NSFW. Ver­bal cal­is­then­ics aside, the nar­ra­tives are de­lib­er­ately sim­plis­tic. The ex­cep­tion is the first ti­tle, Wed­nes­day Black’s How To Train Your Vir­gin, a fab­u­list novella about the shape- shift­ing king and queen of an oth­er­worldly realm. They swing both ways and can in­ter­act with hu­mans through their dreams. They have in­ter­course with crea­tures, in­clud­ing cen­taurs and mer­maids, yet what pro­pels the plot is an age- old cliché—the king’s lust for a cou­ple of vir­gins, a girl and a boy, and the queen’s shat­ter­ing sense of self-worth: “I choke my bit­ter­ness down. Why has my hus­band tired of me?” The ac­count of the queen’s mis­sion to de­flower the vir­gins be­fore her rov­ing hus­band gets to them is in­ter­spersed with clever ad­dresses to the reader that in­clude ru­mi­na­tions on re­verse psy­chol­ogy, the proper dé­cor for se­duc­tion, and hip­sters’ de­tach­ment.

The tril­ogy’s sec­ond book, Lilith Wes’s We Love Lucy, promised less con­ven­tion­ally de­fined gen­der roles than the first, but in the end ex­plains the gay pro­tag­o­nists’ trysts with their straight best friend Lucy all too neatly (read het­eronor­ma­tively). The last book, God, I Don’t Even Know Your Name, by An­drea McGinty, is the most tongue-in- cheek, slyly mir­ror­ing the ethos of mil­len­ni­als through the char­ac­ter Eva, an artist hop­ping from art- re­lated gigs to res­i­den­cies in Europe, whose work “rested com­fort­ably be­tween tech­nol­ogy, nar­cis­sism, and snark in a way that seemed to res­onate with her gen­er­a­tion.” She’s a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic who’s re­placed one ad­dic­tion for another, and is prone, be­tween swip­ing right on a hookup app called Ban­gly, to get ob­ses­sive about her lovers, tor­tur­ing her­self with

inani­ties, such as: “Does he care more about me than about Harun Farocki? [ ... ] [ D] oes he love me more than Rag­nar Kjar­tans­son? Pip­i­lotti Rist?” The only guy she cares about—a cu­ra­tor, of course—disses her, but hey, another one is just a swipe- right away.

The New Lovers se­ries was inspired by Mau­rice Giro­dias’s leg­endary Olympia Press—pub­lish­ing house of Bataille, Beck­ett, Nabokov, Jean Genet, and many oth­ers. Don’t ex­pect to find last­ing literature or crit­i­cal­ity in the se­ries’ first ti­tles. In their pages, all bod­ies, if fuck­able, are un­com­pli­cat­edly young and beau­ti­ful. Yet if there’s a sea­son for es­capism, it is sum­mer. Who’s to con­demn a harm­less one-night stand? Ac­tu­ally, make that three. — Mónica de la Torre is a poet and BOMB’s se­nior editor.

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