Book Review

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Alan Catlin

In the Pink
By A.D. Winans
Pedestrian Press, 1727 10th Street, Oakland CA 94607 $15 ppd
152 2014

The subject is sex. Down and dirty and in your face, literally. Strictly speaking, these stories are neither puerile nor pornographic, but they are most definitely realistic and explicit. If that bothers you read some safe Lit Fict., culled from the mass market title, if it doesn't well, hang on for ride.

The first couple of stories are coming of age, first sexual experience varietals, with a humorous edge. Think John Fante rather than Bukowski, you'll have plenty of opportunity to think Bukowski later on. The stories become grittier once the narrator heads for Panama in the service, and winds up on the streets of San Francisco afterwards. The writing is crisp, fluid, and self-contained as the author takes you into bordellos, bar rooms and bedrooms with a touch of Hemingway thrown in for stylistic grace. If the reader is looking for sweeping panoramic fiction this is not to place to find it, but if the reader is looking for the expression of the self in all his naturalistic glory as in, say, Henry Miller, Winans has some stories for you.

All these pieces but two have the feeling on autobiography to them which is to say, a strong narratives voice, readily identifiable and reliably consistent. There are no real value judgments , moral pronouncements or pretentions: the author presents you with a narrative and you take it as it comes or not. The two exceptions would be the “Night of the Living Dildo”, originally published in infamous, radical publication, the Berkeley Barb, and the final piece, “Straws of Sanity”. These would be the two stories I liked least: the last for its brutality, though the violence is an obvious anti-fascist political statement, and the other, for its “magic realism”, though it's intent is satiric, written as a parody of Bukowski's equally as infamous story, “Six Inches.” Both of these stories seemed tonally out of place with the rest of the collection, especially the last one which overtly expresses a point of view using characters to make a point rather than as a piece that develops organically through the actions of the people involved.

For those who find sexual perversity, whatever that might be, offensive, be warned there are scenes of bondage, sexual humiliation, and extreme fornication between consenting adults. It would be senseless to deny these kinds of activities are not prevalent or widespread as moralists would have us believe. Readers who think be people engaged in the sexual worker trade are all ignorant degenerates might be surprised that not only are there articulate people in the Life, but people who have lived and continue to live, productive existences well outside that life. Check out “Whip Smart” by Melissa Febos, for starters, or Stephen Elliott's highly popular blog, The Daily Rumpus, plus his books and Indie movies, for confirmation of life after The Life. In the mean time, read Winans book, ”In the Pink”, though, alas, the notorious, censored cover edition, is no doubt sold out.

David Gershator

Created on ... September 27, 2007