If you want the best erotica you gotta read the classics
On a bookstore prowl in London, when looking for a new translation of Dante’s Inferno, I discover another object of desire: a woman, rare in her beauty, bound in black leather pants and a purple silk blouse, as alluring as jacarandas in bloom in my home city Los Angeles. My pulse quickens when I overhear her ask a clerk to recommend a book of erotic poetry. I run into her again at the elevator. We punch up different floors. While ascending, I suggest: "If you are looking for the best erotica, don't forget the classics." She looks at me quizzically, then asks, "What do you have in mind?"
I mention a few titles. She thanks me for the suggestions and follows me to the classics section. I fix her up with Catullus, Ovid, Sappho. She opens the Sappho and reads: "I confess.... I love that which caresses me... a thin flame runs under my skin... I drip with sweat... trembling shakes my body... if you will come... I shall put out new pillows for you to rest on..." "This is beautiful,” she remarks, “the words pierce me and curl inside. I always thought the classics were so dry. Do you have time to talk?"
We go for coffee. We talk for hours about authors we love, my career as a professor of literature, her interests in writing fiction. I must leave London the next day. We exchange email addresses. We begin a vibrant correspondence about our passion for words, stories, the sensual.
A year later, she writes, thrilled, and attaches her first story in print. The title: "Gallehault.” The plot: A professor in L.A. and a London woman seduce each other through the internet. He introduces her to Sappho. It inspires her first collection of erotic short stories.
The lines of her story course up my spine and light my head afire: "You have my cover opened, my pages turned....The erotic must unfold slowly, like petals opening before the morning sun....Having bitten the apple you will remain in paradise." How does the story end? She invites him to London: "Let’s make our words flesh. Come here. Take me.” He accepts.