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[whitespace] Picks by Norah Forman (NF) and Jessica Ylvisaker (JY)

The Bearded Lady
By Sharlee Dieguez
Hill Street Press, 288 pages, $25

Sisters Jessie and Amanda "Tweets" Twillinger are young, orphaned and poor in rural turn-of-the-century Georgia. And Jessie must shave twice daily to avoid growing a Lincolnic beard. Given such obstacles to a felicitous existence, it comes as something of a relief when the disadvantaged siblings land themselves a couple of positions with the circus. The Bearded Lady does not want for plot potential. In fact, the book winds up a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities offered by its bizarre circumstances and tends to fall back on rather more ordinary devices and characterizations. Why, for example, does the freak-show spectacle touted as possessing the tiniest feet in the world, a wizened old Chinese woman named Mei Ling, offer little more of interest than a fantastic recipe for garlic broccoli? A gutsier approach to the relationships among the characters, physically aberrant and otherwise, might have yielded a richer tale, but Dieguez shuffles us through the teen years of Jessie and Tweets as if in the dark, bumping into such bulky furniture as adolescence, self-worth, identity, beauty and love without really making much of the imposing structures. (JY)


Hot Off the Net: Erotica and Other Sex Writings From the Internet
Edited by Russ Kick
Black Books, 240 pages, $14

Member, hungry box, tool, nub, meat, spunk, load, slit. Why is erotica so, well, unerotic sometimes? Hot Off the Net: Erotica and Other Sex Writings From the Internet is the standard mixed bag typical of erotica anthologies. According to the foreword, the Internet offers writings above and beyond the usual whack-off material and claims that "the work ... selected for this collection is raw, uncensored, on the edge, sometimes even out of control." Although I wouldn't go that far, they do manage to get the job done. While content runs the gamut from interspecies love featuring Flipper to the usual horny suburban swingers, the actual conventions and vocabulary of most pieces are remarkably similar to that of other less "edgy" erotica collections. No matter what your tastes are, you will find at least one one-handed read in this book. From the angsty poetry of "Mother Teresa's Vagina" to the transsexual, but functional, family dream of "Mother's Sons" to the good old T&A of "Beach Slut," there is something here for the private dancer in all of us. (NF)

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From the July 19, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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