It has been two and half years since I last posted on the Cabinet of Curiosities and, in that time, we’ve all weathered the isolation and anxiety of Covid, a carousel of conservatives governing Britain and the warmest year so far on record. For me, these last two and half years have been a period where my focus has shifted further from historical narrative and how to capture the past in fiction to desire and how we capture the experience of our sensuality in writing. This shift wasn’t so much of a departure as a change in emphasis. Both of my historical novels are concerned with two particular women in different periods; both uneducated, without voice and chafing against the limitations of society. In both cases, their connection to themselves as sexual beings shaped and redirected the course of their lives.  

If I could pinpoint the start of this shift, it would be in November 2019 at a talk in east London by Lisa Taddeo discussing her book, Three Women, with Hadley Freeman. As interesting as the author was and is, it was really the discussion of the audience surrounding me that interested me most. People seemed to feel that the book was a groundbreaking survey of female arousal and desire for its own sake. This led me to do a survey of my own into books by women that explicitly explored desire from the early 20th century until now. I read obsessively, and in May 2020, I started the Erotic Book Club for women with the Hearth, a women only work space in North West London. We looked at Anais Nin short collections, Jeanette Winterson, The story of O, Fifty shades of Grey, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, Sally Rooney, Raven Leilani and Leila Slimani, amongst others.  

Many of the authors we discussed in the Erotic Book Club were recognised for their literary merit but the highly sexualised content of their writing wasn’t always explored by critics. Other books, like The Story of O, first published in France in 1954, were simply not accepted in the canon, despite its spare and beautiful prose. In the Anglo Saxon world, we struggle to respond and celebrate sex in art. In other cultures, from Japan to South Asia to parts of South America and even European countries, like France, the erotic is respected and celebrated as a literary art form, but we lag behind. Susan Sontag’s 1967 essay, ‘The Pornographic Imagination’, argued for good explicit writing to stop being labelled pornography, for Bataille and Reage to be studied as artists. She wrote that the “erotic imagination touches upon the reader’s whole experience of humanity.” And yet, even today, in a supposedly more liberated time, we still don’t have respected platforms for writers to explore desire, from the explicit to the mundane. 

Desire is as fundamental and universal as hunger. Rather than just study the art and literature, I’ve also been experimenting with writing short stories about the sexual being; considering how we use words to depict something so physical. Lickerish Library, an erotic platform curated by women, commissioned me to write five stories for them so far, published under a pseudonym. I’ve also been writing a collection of more literary short stories about desire and being a mother and growing older. It was one of these stories that the former editor of the Erotic Review, Jamie Maclean, first contacted me about two years ago. I’d known about the Erotic Review since working in my first job as assistant editor at Prospect magazine in 2000 and followed the various incarnations of the magazine ever since, from print to online. We began a working relationship and when he decided to retire last year, he made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse.

I am extremely proud to announce that I am the new editor of the Erotic Review,, guiding the revamp 2023. I plan to bring the publication back out in print three times a year, a literary and art journal that explores desire. An object of beauty. A collaboration with artists, hosting events and an annual prize. And that is just the beginning.

5 thoughts on “Exploring Desire

  1. Thank you Lucy,

                I really appreciate knowing the path you have travelled to becoming editor of the Erotic Review, and its wider context. I sincerely hope that you are successful in your aims.  



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  2. Excellent!  Off you go darling…. Also for website bio?

    Sent from my iPhone


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