Cliched erotica all bang but no bite

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 August, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 August, 1997, 12:00am

Pleasure Bound by Susan Swann X-Libris, $85 It was so exciting I could hardly stay awake. As erotic thrills go, Pleasure Bound moves the boredometer needle into the red.

X-Libris, an imprint of publisher Little, Brown, offers x-rated fiction for women, written by women - or at least, writers using women's names.

But in Susan Swann's collection of 13 short stories enclosed in a symbolically hot pink cover, she manages to bring together some of the most tired, cliched formulae imaginable, basing her 'plots' on the type of dreary stereotyped fantasies it is disappointing to see produced by a woman.

Girls like a spanking; girls like a man in uniform; girls secretly yearn to be dominated - it is all here in its politically incorrect and monumentally boring glory.

Here we have the woman who walks through an old-fashioned mirror and into a boudoir where the ideal lover awaits her, and the lesbian who sleeps alone in a haunted house where the sexy female ghost gives her a night to remember.

And, in Julia's Burning, Swann brings us three cliches in one - fireman twins who turn up to put out Julia's fire - in her bedroom - and stay to help her cool off with the aid of a smacked bottom.

Yes, every type of titillation you can think of and several you probably haven't are here. But there's not much else. No amount of explicit and varied sex, no matter how explosive for the participants - and of course it is all bangs and no wimpers here - can disguise the lack of plot, characterisation and setting.

This was my first X-Libris experience. Presumably it is a case of if you want plot and characters, read a novel. Swann is clearly assuming that all her panting readers want is to be turned on, and good luck to them. But I have read far more erotic encounters in many a good novel, even with plots and strong characterisation getting in the way of a good time.

The establishment of imprints such as X-Libris was hailed as a breakthrough for women, because here at last was erotica written from a woman's point of view. But if Pleasure Bound is a typical product this new breed of literature has little more to offer than a plotless blue movie.