Edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell
Simon & Schuster. 288 pages, $17.
This collection brings together established writers and distinctive emerging voices to offer a multivalent view of “kink” in all its complexities, peeling back the many emotional layers of desire and recasting the common narrative that kink is necessarily transgressive. In our culture, the editors write in the introduction, kink is pathologized or, at best, viewed in simplistic ways. In contrast, these stories explore issues of control, trust, communication, power, and others with sensitivity and subtlety.
Brandon Taylor’s story, “Oh, Youth,” reveals the fragility of expectations—what can happen when the terms of a transaction are disturbed by unexpected emotional responses. In Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror,” a darkly fantastical, hallucinatory tale of violence, sexual hunger, and the dizzying malleability of power is set against the backdrop of Paris’ Grand Guignol theater. Chris Kraus’ “Emotional Technologies” inventively intercuts a linear narrative with episodes of philosophical, historical, and theoretical observation to explore the theatricality of sadomasochism: “Like theater or pure math, S/M is a self-generating system large enough to reference everything that it excludes. Romance, desire, context, expectation loop back and forth between us through our roles. … The game is totally complete within itself. Unlike ordinary sex, it is an act, and not a metaphor, of love.” Kink catalogues, by no means exhaustively, the myriad ways we can curate, claim, and reclaim our desires.