Dirty Stories, Vol. 3
various writers & artists,
Eric Reynolds, editor
(Eros/Fantagraphics, 2002)

Porn and erotica aren't really my entertainment preference. It's not that I have any moral objections, but watching people have sex is about as interesting as watching people eat lunch. If I'm not the one doing it, I'm not interested. But just as food rituals can be an important element of a story, so sex can be an interesting motivating feature, and so I was curious to see how Fantagraphics and Eros would use this uniting theme. Would Dirty Stories offer truly mature reading, or just adolescent trash? Splitting the difference, they went for both.

The first story, Mack White's "A Scandal in St. J," reads and looks like a story from the Big Books series. A tale of scandal and murder, the sex scenes are made a necessary part of the story -- and they're quite attractive. The old-school comic illustration style is highly appealing. Matthias Lehmann uses a unique, near-woodcut style for the sweet and funny "Introduction," creating one of the most really attractive female characters I've seen in alternate comics. Penny Horn also has a very dark style in her clayboard-rendered "The Biggest One I've Ever Seen," but the two-page short made me laugh out loud in sympathy. "My, My American Bukkake" uses a stark, rotoscoped look for a comic page documentary of an odd fetish import. The art, while not really explicit, gives the story a cold, harsh feel that sits oddly with the relaxed text.

Of course, this is Dirty Stories, and so sex-focused tales occupy most of the book. "The Solstice Shrine" has a very loving sex scene, featuring two strange, fey artichoke-topped lovers. Ellen Forny's' "Mary" is cheerful guide to hand-enjoyment, quite explicit but still fun. "Buffy Scotch" is only a found-object contribution, but this doll ad is full of the sort of chuckles normally only obtained from checkout line tabloids.

There are, for those wondering, some truly dirty stories, where the sex is ugly and the story nonexistent. Two of the worst stories, "A Yiffy Situation" and "Super-Stud," feature both very bad art and dull attempts at plot for no more reason than to indulge a weak fetish. The splashpage art by Cephalopod Products is very well done, but it turns sex into a Bosch-inspired nightmare. There are presumably people who really like nightmarish genitalia. Good for them, and I hope they enjoy the art, but I'm guessing these few pages of illustration will attract half the outraged letters.

It's hard to recommend a book like Dirty Stories -- it's really the sort of material people will have already made up their minds about. But the actual stories in it have won it a place on my bookshelf, even if I have to hide it when my grandmother comes to visit.

[ by Sarah Meador ]
Rambles: 7 September 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.