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Postmodern Village
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Classics, De-Cl(ass)ed
By Xaveria Hollandaise

Not since the 1970s smash X-Rated, Bard-inspired musical A Midsummer Night's Cream has the literary world been so inundated with classic-inspired erotica. It may indicate some backlash against the forces of conservatism or an attempt to re-invigorate the dismal state of what was once a robust and thriving (if not to say experimental) publishing scene, but whatever its origins, naughty is back, and liberation has come to the parodically-minded flash-and-slash-fic writers of the online age.

Last summer's The Gropes of Wrath is a case-in-point. The story is of the Load family, drummed out of their rural Oklahoma town when their sexual deviancy is discovered by a repressed local pastor-cum-banker and overall busybody. This is John Spineback at his raunchiest, showing not only how the Loads make their way to “Calipornia” to start an S&M products empire, but who they flay along the way--all in exquisite and excruciating detail. When mainstream readers get in a tingle over near-porn crossover hits like 50 Shades of Gray, they tend to forget about the purity and straightforward sexuality of the real thing. There are few illusions with these sorts of literary allusions, and Spineback--supposedly the pseudonym of a former high-school English teacher and amateur filmmaker--is among the best in the bunch, right down to the final, climactic scene with Thorn o' Sharin' suckling a bound, leather-clad venture capitalist in order to secure backing for the family's “second coming” as a specialty fetish manufacturing concern.

But this is merely one of the better examples. Numerous others of recent publication have indicated that a real new genre is in the making. Such titles as Tease of Eden; As I Lay, Sighing; The Naked and the Naked; The Gape Gatsby; and The Poundin' of the Furry have seen surprisingly brisk sales as Kindle downloads. Of even more interest to the critic are those that take their charge of creating parody that is both “classical” and “literary” somewhat seriously. One example is Screw the Lighthouse, which combines modernist techniques with existential angst and a lesbian love story that those who are interested in such things may find genuinely moving. Stream of consciousness, for most people, involves the frankly and sometimes crassly erotic, and so is a rather good fit when combined with the Clit Lit traditions of underground Fifth Wave feminism. This echoes perhaps the founding book along these lines, the once actionable and now obscure James Joyce novel Ulysses.

One particularly ambitious project, disseminated as a series of NSFW blog posts, is Marcel Loose's In Search of Things Lust (Dong's Way), a semi-autobiographical account of sexual encounters and erotic feelings from the author's earliest days (including some about a quite naughty aunt who named a particular part of her anatomy “Madeline”). The plan is for a total of seven volumes, but some have noted that Loose's accounts of a hypersexualized past already stretch credibility.

Those who prefer a little swash with their loosening buckles will enjoy Sir Jolly Slot's Ivanho', with its subtle nod to the Richard Gere/Julia Roberts blockbuster Pretty Woman. Only with a lot more lancing on horseback, if you know what I mean.

A number of recent works provide deep social satire along with their parodic and erotic underpinnings. Witness A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Pants, which manages to pull off not merely mimicking a Twainish style, but also revealing the deep violence and casual depravity behind puritanical American mores. Plus, it's rip-roaringly funny, and the sex scenes, while somewhat emotionally cringe-worthy as they skewer our most sacred societal shibboleths, are still relatively hot.

This work has itself inspired a sub-sub-genre-specific parody of itself, A Connecticut Yankee in Bea Arthur's Pants, which even this rather jaded reviewer found herself blushing to download.

American works are the most popular targets, with another sub-genre specializing in the oeuvre of Nathaniel Hawthorne, with such titles as The House of 7 Gayholes and The Scarlet Licker prominent examples of type. Absoschlong! Absoschlong! is just as tortured an attempt to parody Faulkner as one might expect from the title, but is, perhaps, worth a read for just that reason. And, inevitably, horny Hemingway fans are not left out of this new movement, with The Old Man and the C*** and A Spreadable Feast recommended reads and A Moveable Fist suitable only for the most extreme and least sentimental among us.

Most controversial, perhaps, of the new movement of erotic parodies of classic literature, is The Sin of the Widows, a picture book that ought not to be confused with a similarly named beloved children's book. Whether or not literature for young people is a comfortable subject for erotic revision is a question too broad for this review, but it seems scandalously popular, if its sales numbers are any indication. In fact, the same author, the so-called Kuntith Groan, is planning a whole series entitled Quimm's Fairy Tales, which promises to rewire the brains of its readers even while it engorges their nether regions. And for all the uproar these works engender, Groan's parodies are at least gentle, in distinction to the forthcoming attempt to satirize a more contemporary work, Infinite Jizz, sneak previews of which have caused many a critic to murmur “too soon,” even as they keep turning the pages bursting with its thick and prodigious prose.

No matter how well-endowed traditional publishing houses may still find themselves or how virile the fusty academic purveyors of the classics may still be, there's little doubt of the fecundity, if not the quality, of this new genre. And the figures seem to back up the notion that, as much as we enjoy the deep pleasures of great books, we also find ourselves sucked into the more salacious joys of good--or even passable--erotica. Before you blow these books off as trite or even blasphemous, give them a chance. They just might seduce you.