by Alma Marceau
Published by Studio Loplop
282 pages, 2001
Reviewed by M.J. Rose
Let's get one thing out of the way first: Lofting is what many people would call smut. It's erotica -- written in polished, evocative prose that is the antithesis of pulp pornography -- but all the same, it's fundamentally and unapologetically a dirty book. No coy hints at the sexual here; Lofting's salaciousness is vivid and exhaustive. The characters in this novel may have obscure psychological motivations, subtly sketched backstories and intellectual complexity -- but when it comes to their carnality, Marceau leaves little to the reader's imagination and she describes it all in loving and gritty detail. And after the spate of recent erotic bestsellers, I must say I find something refreshing about a dirty novel that, for all its legitimate literary qualities, makes no pretense to being other than what it is.
Unlike Susan Minot's Rapture, which employs an extended act of fellatio as a pretext to talk about a lot of things other than sex, or Catherine Millet's Sexual Life of Catherine M, which is too much a French laundry list of wanton acts to qualify as my idea of a hot read, Lofting is one-handed reading for discerning lovers of literature. Except sometimes the other hand is looking up a word or two in the Oxford English Dictionary. That's how smart the smutty Marceau is.
"I love the way you come," Nick said. "It's beautiful. 'Le petit mort.' Ever think about that? Sort of a strange conception of death, if you ask me. Very optimistic -- seems more American than French."
That appended "what" is typical of Marceau's style throughout the book. Characters miss each other's references, talk at cross-purposes and tease one another relentlessly. The intellectual banter that makes up the interstices of Lofting is thus saved from the forced earnestness that so often characterizes novelistic conversations involving ideas. Lofting describes an orgiastic world, replete with blindfolds, shackles and the classic sadistic pleasures of pain, but it thankfully avoids the Marquis' other obsession of interminable philosophical speculation. Funny, filthy and tolerably smart, Lofting deserves a place on the short shelf of good erotic fiction. | September 2002