Review of Torn Shapes of Desire

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Torn Shapes of Desire: Internet Erotica
by Mary Anne Mohanraj
Intangible Assets Manufacturing: Philadelphia, PA. 1996.
ISBN 1-885876-03-3

There's something particularly charming about this book, but it's hard to put a finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it's the fact that this book is comprised mostly of erotic material that the author has posted to the internet at various times. I found myself reflecting on the fact that thousands of people have read this material before me through the same phosphorous glow that I'm seeing now as I write this review. It also brought to mind that this talented author saw fit to share much of her writing with an appreciative public for free. That's more than admirable, given her ability.

I think that much of this book's charm is due to the nostalgia it inspired in me, and which it perhaps would inspire in other readers as well. I still remember quite fondly finding Usenet (in the days when the* heirarchy still had quality traffic) and noting the sense of "community" that in those years it seemed to possess. Mary's writing, and the nature of Torn Shapes of Desire, reminded me of the best I've seen happen on the internet in terms of creativity, honesty, and sharing. There's a particular flavor to much of the "net community" that centers around sex - a unique spirit. This book captures the best of it.

So that's the hook. The "meat" is the quality of the erotic writing in this collection. In general, the stories in this collection throb with a direct, primal heat. The poetry (of which I'll quote an example of towards the end) tends toward the reflective and romantic. Thus, the two forms complement each other nicely as they're woven together throughout the book.

Torn Shapes of Desire starts with three essays, one by each of the three principal people involved in the project: the publisher, the photographer, and the author. In this introductory matter, I would have liked to have seen more commentary about the history behind these stories, where they were posted, how they were receiveed, etc. Since this book has its grounding in the internet, and is unique among erotica collections in that respect, a little more commentary on this particular area would have been appropriate. However, this minor shortcoming was more than made up for in the article "Interview with a Panel of Internet Erotica Writers" on page 63. I couldn't help but notice that some of the authors participating in the online interview wrote some material that I've spend plenty of time masturbating to, and reading what they have to say about their art was fascinating.

One particular touching section was "Jinsong", which is written as a series of e-mail messages between "Matthew" and "Jinsong" as they flirt and ultimately decide to meet. There's something very emotionally charged about reading someone else's mail, even if it's fictionalized. "Jinsong" hit home for that reason, as well as for the quality of some of the poems it contains.

I have no complaints about the photography in this book. Tracy's work complements the text quite nicely with a good, consistent style.

I'm going to close with a poem from Torn Shapes of Desire. As I've said before, the poems in this book generally handle different subject matter than the stories. However, if you find that the quality of the writing in this poem meets your standards, then you're going to love Torn Shapes of Desire. Personally, I enjoyed this book, and was glad I had the opportunity to read it. To read more about this book, to get ordering information on it, and to read more work by the author, please browse Mary Anne's WWW page at

You'll Understand When You're Older, Dear
by Mary Anne Mohanraj

Have you ever been in love?
Really in love?
I mean the fairy-tale kind,
with blue skies and never lies,
perfect skin and angel eyes,
and the only argument
is over who loves whom more?

Me neither.

Have you ever been fucked?
Really fucked?
Bang you head against the
metal bedpost - never notice,
soft sheets or concrete -
makes no difference,
screaming something and if
it's the wrong name who
fucking gives a damn
god yes,


Some days, you take what you can get.
Some day, maybe you'll be glad of it.

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