Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: Alchemy (II) edited by Sheba Karim

The sheer excitement of reading a well written Erotica is always high but given the fact that it was my first experience of reading an Indian Erotica, my excitement was doused with amusement as well as apprehensions. Alchemy, is an anthology of erotic short stories written by writers of South Asian descent and edited by Sheba Karim who goes with the belief that “I would much rather want that someone first learns about sex from a well written Erotica story than some unrealistic, badly made, male-centric porn on the internet.” While internationally an Erotica has been accepted as a genre capable of literary merit, it is still a long way to go for in a country like ours. And thus such well written and edited Erotica novels and anthologies are highly welcomed and accepted by readers like me.

However, as I finished story after story of this Erotica anthology, I was not much impressed by it. May be because my expectations were quite high and was not in any mood to read an account of a postmodern man’s attraction towards his maid and such similar stories. I wanted to read something that would evoke my senses and would let me contemplate it long after I have finished reading the book.

Read below for individual brief review of all the thirteen stories.

The Farmer’s Daughter by Rabi Thapa:

Well much to my dissapointment, the first story of the book is a unapologetic account of a postmodern man’s sexual attraction towards his maid. Based in Nepal, the protagonist secretly desires for a sexual endeavor with his maid but never gets the nerve to approach her even after befriending her and getting quite a number of chances that destiny throws at him.

And no, I did not like the story at all as I was no way in mood to read an account of a man's lust towards his maid. This is an age-old plot and thus it left me in bad taste.

Clay by Gudiya:

I started reading it without much expectation. The beginning was tad-bit unimpressive but very soon I was amazed to realize how well written the story is. Settled on a modern day platform, for me, it dealt with many modern day aspects of our lives. How sexual relationships with no emotional connect are on the rise. How women too are concerned and focused about their own sexual gratification. How sex could just be an act of pleasure and nothing more and how at the same time those li’l moments when you connect to your partner emotionally while in the middle of it, you transcend to a whole new level of gratification. On the other hand it also deals with social aspect of today’s world where there is almost no connection in between the family members. How children are exposed to such activities at such an young age. How an elderly is not taken care of. So much so that you don't even notice the demise of one. 

Last but not the least it also emphasis on the naked truth that love, crush, lust, fantasies, and desires can be towards anyone. Feelings are par beyond the societal norms and status.

By far this is my favorite story out of all even though more than an erotica it is a well written sensitive story dealing with layers of human emotions. This story has a heart of its own which surely touched a chord of mine.

Sanskrit by Ranbir Sidhu:

The story is about an Indian couple, Anu and Hari, who are settled abroad. Who, on their anniversary decides to get stoned. Their planned night for sex and merriment gets marred by continues phone calls by Hari’s boss. It also tries to throw light on how a married couple is pressurized by the society to have children. 

The story was not much clear to me but I guess the boss was dealing with his past and needed to make a confession. I somehow also feel that it also deals with the extinguished fire and passion between the couple and their attempt to rekindle it by the attempts at bondage and getting stoned.

Definitely not an erotica for me as I could not find any such element in it. The story was dragged beyond my patience level and thus left me in a state of boredom.

Abandon by Shrimoyee Nandini:

This is another favorite of mine from this erotic anthology. Well written, erotic, mysterious and last but not the least involving elements of thriller in it. The end too was very unexpected and good.

The story revolves around a dating couple who explores their sexuality inside many unattended and half-constructed construction sites in town, which soon becomes a habit.

The story reiterated my belief that we are never alone in our fantasies and habits, no matter how bizzare we think it to be.

Mouth by M. Svairini:

Mouth is a futuristic tale of a four gendered orgy.  It involves the submissives and the masters and how affection germinates between a submissive and her master. This is an odd but well thought of, well researched and a very well written story.  Certain descriptions did gross me out but then at the end I was pretty impressed by it. This again is a story with a heart.

A Foreigner by Amitava Kumar:

A story of an immigrant and his sexual fantasies and endeavors, which for me was not very clear. The story has nothing to offer to me and hence I did not enjoy it again.

Semen, Saliva, Sweat, Blood by Hansda Sowendra Shekhar:

This one deals with homosexuality and the emotional hardships a homosexual goes through. How he/she lets other take advantage of him/her in spite of knowing everything. How a man with homosexual bend runs away from accepting his own sexual orientation due to societal pressure and thus is forced to be in a heterosexual relationship.

A very crude and raw language has been used but makes to be a good read.

F is for Free by Abeer Hoque:

Again a story of an immigrant and her sexual rendezvous with her fellow traveler who happens to be a stranger. Personally I did not like it again as it failed miserably as an erotica.

The Periscope by Lopa Ghosh:

Again, a story revolving around fantasies with element of vagueness.

The Matinee by Mohan Sikka:

A well written narrative about a boy’s sexual awakening inside the bathroom of a cinema hall. One of my favorites in the anthology. It also speaks about child molestation though in a subtle way.

The Marrying Kind by Mary Anne Mohanraj:

Leilani does not feel the spark to marry Jade until he doesn't break the barriers to satisfy her. 

Liked the fact how girls happen to be no more a submissive partner.

The Monk by Ananda Devi:

A young boy leaves his parents and the comforts of life behind to lead a life of a monk. He is unfazed by the hardships that accompanies a monk's tough life. No doubt he is one of the best there.  But suddenly, the same boy encounters puberty and then comes the flood of sexual fantasies and desires.

A good read for sure.

Next Year At The Taj by Sheba Karim:

A story that happens to be the real story of many couples these days as the number of estranged couples are on a rise. The story too revolves around an estranged couple where the man wants his marriage to work whereas the wife already is detached. The story talks about the guilt of the man for sleeping with a hooker and how that guilt makes him determined to bring the lost love back in their relationship.

Overall an average read. However, for me most of the stories were not erotica but sensitive stories dealing with many human emotions.

Rating: **1/2

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


  1. hmmm interesting read and analysis Preeti... I would only like to read the monk though... 2 and 1/2 * doesn't give a positive impression for the anthology...
    btw how did get hold of the book... is it first come first serve basis?... coz i too applied few times but never got a response :))

    1. hahaha dadu yes the book could be pass on without much thinking. Not a good read at all.

      and seriously telling you i do not know on what basis BA selected me. This was the first time i applied for it and voila got selected.

  2. I don’t think these stories teach something about sex... and sound like picked from internet. I like to read the Monk story, which haunt me sometime how the adolescent control or express their sex related desire and emotions.

    The net porn are idiotic, than erotic!

    1. Well I agree these books don't teach about sex. But these stories have not been picked from internet are are written by already published writers.

      And yes net porn or porn of any kind surely is surely idiotic and misleading. But Erotica is all together a different literary genre. And it might not always be idiotic.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Looks like this book is not to be picked if you're in a mood to read some good erotica! Nice review. :)

    Anyway, new on your blog. hope you can find some time and visit mine. Maybe we could follow each other? :)

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