(pb; 2006: erotic story anthology)
The sexually diverse stories in this anthology favor a intellectualized, cosmic mindset that often pushes Nature to the forefront of these romantic, sometimes experimental works.
I read this collection the same way I enjoy any other story anthology: I read a few tales a day, set the book down and mentally digested the works. Eros is not meant to be read straight through, without breaks - though one clearly can, given its reiterated themes, experimentation and (possible) character links.
The themes of these twenty-four stories run along these lines - there's the Nature-reverent works, many of them scene-sketch pieces (e.g., "Forest Secrets", "Moonrise Over the Ocean", "Woman as a Landscape" and "Nocturne"), woman or man recounts their sex partner-history (e.g., "Just Another Birthday", "Waiting with Julia" and "The Black Widow") and pushing the narrative boundaries (e.g., "Thinking of Breasts", which made me think of Chuck Palahniuk's analytical, page-bound tendencies, or "Bus Stop", which describes an impromptu stranger-bang, without giving any backstory, or what life consequences may have resulted from the encounter).
In the past, these sketch pieces would have caused my editorial sensibilities to recoil, but Baltensperger makes them work - another example of before you break or bend the rules, know the rules. . . which this author clearly does, making said sketch pieces succeed.
This classy anthology - shot through with loving, larger-than-us sentiments - is worth owning, if you, as a reader, are willing to think beyond the usual sex story clichés and limited focus of many of those genre works.
1.) "A Matter of Time": A divorced couple (Mick and Sylvia) mentally process their relatively new life changes. Excellent, in its emotional potency and restraint.
2.) "Small Favors": A woman (Rose Miller) blossoms in a sexually diverse way via a succession of lovers, before discovering a less ephemeral, equally carnal veracity to satisfy her.
3.) "Expectations": A cautionary tale about two lovers (Bernice and Conrad), whose carnal time together may be supervened by their life choices. Exemplary story, more emotionally complex than most lustworks I've read in a long while.
4.) "The Mechanic": Hank, a repairman-inventor, gets a job at a private mechanized sex club (Ecstasy House) and revels in his work.
5.) "A Quick and Easy Death": A death fetishist details another lover's end-of-life cycle, while preparing himself for her gentle physical demise.
While this story will definitely prove squickable - disturbing - to some mainstream erotica readers, Baltensperger imbues this work with a dark, almost Gothic romanticism that makes "Quick" not entirely disturbing for this reader. Bravo.
[This review was originally published on the Reading and Writing By Pub Light site.]
Also: this site - Microstory A Week - published one of Baltensperger's mainstream/non-erotic tales ("Nocturnal Tableaux") on October 31, 2012. If you haven't read this atmospheric work, check it out.