A bald plot summary is unexciting. Claire (using the screen name Parapraxista) learns about cybersex from Andres (Patroqueeet), in an opening eighty pages that would make a nice novella by themselves. She then acquires a boyfriend Nick, in a more romantic interlude, and he introduces her to sex in public places, most notably in the reptile house at the zoo, in front of a feeding python. Then comes the combination of sex with cybersex and the inevitable introduction of another woman, Nick's friend Sandrine, and another man, along with assorted elements of bondage and submission.
This is no doubt the plot of any number of bad smut stories. But while its sex is certainly hot enough, and should have fairly broad appeal, Lofting is also an effective novel. The point of view never leaves Claire and we share her doubts and uncertainties and exhilarations, we follow her experiences and discoveries and introspective inner monologues — though the latter may be excessively abstract for some.
"Put to me a year earlier, the question would have enraged me. Certainly, I'd have instantly branded as a misogynistic yahoo any man who so much as implied I was a slut. But Andres had changed me. Under his tutelage I'd come to see how critically important context and intent were to the hermeneutics of vilespeak. And Andres' intentions had always been clear: he thrilled to my orgasms, he was committed to their multiplication and eternal recurrence."(Another reviewer suggests that Lofting can't be pornography because the reader needs one hand for a dictionary.) The dialogue is snappy and clever, if sometimes too clever to be really plausible, and the characters are convincingly intelligent and engaging — for some of us, a necessary prerequisite for even fantasised sex. And Marceau never needs the bizarre, the shocking, or the esoteric to keep our attention: her characters fit into a New York setting that is both compelling in its ordinariness and appealing in its detail.
Should erotica be relegated to a ghetto? Sex in copious quantities and pretty much any amount of detail is now perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction, but only if everyone tiptoes around the actual reason for its inclusion, namely that it turns on the readers. So it's refreshing to see a novel that doesn't make any bones about that, while at the same time not dumbing itself down.
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