cover image Tremble: Erotic Tales of the Mystical and Sinister

Tremble: Erotic Tales of the Mystical and Sinister

Tobsha Learner. Penguin/Plume, $16 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-14-218037-2

Learner (Quiver) evokes an erotically charged version of the tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which magic instantly fits into the world of each story, and has a reason to exist and something to say to the protagonists. These nine wonderfully strange and dark tales maintain a dreamy, fairy-tale feel whether their settings are historical or contemporary. The interplay among religion, sex, and magic is a major theme in the book: a pagan mandrake-penis hops around like a puppy in "The Root," Dionysian rituals are reenacted in "Custodian," a nun's lost faith is restored after she touches a dead saint's withered nipple in "Virgin," and a Jewish woman is haunted by her dead husband's nocturnal noises in "The Snore." On the secular side, "Hair Shirt" offers the points of view of all the members of an uncomfortable love triangle. Each story would be incomplete without its explicit scenes, but the impression this smart collection leaves is not so much arousal but full engagement with the world. (Sept.)