• Kaleb A. Brown

Slut Vomit Book Review

Read from ~06/25/2022 - 07/24/2022


Complete with a public reading-proof cover


It can be a bit difficult to find works from small publishing houses. There's undoubtedly a bit of a punky quality to the prospect of only discovering a work by knowing the right person instead of hearing about it through word-of-mouth. In my case, the evocatively-titled "Slut Vomit" was spewed on my radar thanks to contributor Cody Sexton, who also writes and edits for A Thin Slice of Anxiety, a litmag that I follow and am published in. Finding stories from small presses can be a real rigamarole, no doubt, but it's also intensely rewarding and Slut Vomit is exhibit A of this.


For years, I've been on the hunt for stories that artfully incorporate sex in their narrative. With this in mind, Slut Vomit, an anthology of short stories dealing with all manner of sex work and paid eroticism, seemed right up my alley. And I'm happy to say that it delivers. While not every story knocks it out of the park, they each held my attention.


For this review, I've decided not to rank the stories. It just doesn't sit right with me to pit smaller authors against one another. I'll refrain from singling any story out in favor of looking over the collection as a whole.


One of the most vital strengths of Slut Vomit is its consistency: consistency in tone, consistency in quality, and consistency in content. While each story stands out, the cavalier and genuine tone works as a throughline to tie them all together. No story stands leagues above another. And, of course, all of the stories do a good job of staying on subject.


And, by God, do the stories incorporate the subject well. There are ways to approach so-called "literary fiction" with enthusiasm, blending the care and meaning associated with the genre with the fun of "genre fiction." Slut Vomit is a helluva lot of fun, but beyond that, it's mindful. In the anthology, sex is rarely a destination, instead, it's a vehicle to explore character. In one story, it's a way to analyze the woes of aging. In another, it's used to speak about human connection and loneliness.


The deceptive role that sex plays in the stories manifests in the way they're written. Slut Vomit is an anthology ostensibly about sex, but very little intercourse of any kind is depicted in the stories themselves. One story might feature build-up to sex but end before we get there and another might have it occur, but skip past it instead of depicting it. While Slut Vomit isn't the type of book you'd want to read in polite company, it's surprisingly light on the smut. This isn't a knock against it, it's just something to note. If you're looking to get your rocks off, then look elsewhere. Furthermore, Slut Vomit is not only not titillating due to how little sex is depicted, but because of how it's framed. Several of the main characters get into sex work due to horrible, sex-related trauma, we see acts of grievous violence, we see examples of characters regretting their work. The sex of Slut Vomit isn't exactly dour, but it's far from glamorous, more often than not. I appreciate this, as it shows us a three-dimensional view of sex work without demonizing the workers themselves. The way sex is handled could also be a form of commentary. It essentially chastises the reader for their lust, denying them of their base urges and in doing so, forcing them to see sex for how complex it really is. Slut Vomit is essentially teasing you, albeit for a good cause. The way sex is handled is transgressive, in a funny way. In America, the topic of sex is taboo. Sex itself isn't. Media dictates that it cannot be discussed, scrutinized, or analyzed. Think about the prevalence of the sex scene in action movies: it's there and gone without a word. It tends to strike a chord when you want to stop and talk about sex in art. The fact that Slut Vomit essentially flips the script on this is both cheeky and cool.


The last bit of praise I want to give is to the voices the authors employ, as they're a big reason why the anthology ends up being so fun. There's a casual and, again, cavalier tone that gives the story a genuine quality that they wouldn't otherwise have. They really draw you in and in an age where we authors have to fight tooth and nail for readers' time and attention, that's nothing short of excellent.


Still, as good as the Slut Vomit is, it does have a bit of bile in its pages.


As I said, most stories do a good job of being impactful, of having real meaning to the sex on display, no matter how kinky or off-color. Two stories...don't. Without naming names, I'll say that there are stories that I can single out as the low points of the anthology. They're extremely unpleasant to read. They're crude and mean-spirited, with more r-slurs I've seen this day-and-age this side of Reddit and 4chan. The two stories up the shock factor to pretty absurd levels. And I get it, to shock and not care who's offended is one of the book's goals. The problem is that when it's done without real meaning, it just comes across as juvenile, shocking just for controversy's sake. There's another story in the anthology that's similarly shocking, but its shock is used in a much more purposeful manner, and it's punchy in a way these aren't.

Given that I made a point to praise the book's consistency in quality, it might come across as contradictory that I identified two low points. Unfortunately, that's because the stories aren't consistently amazing, meaning the downright bad stories don't really hamper the consistency too much. I'm not saying the anthology as a whole is bad — it's good, great, even, but no story really knocked my socks off. The stories grabbed my attention and I may even revisit some, but I wouldn't call any of them the best thing I've ever read. Can it be because sex wasn't depicted? I'd like to think of myself as being better than that, but it's certainly possible.


Still, the stories are pretty damn good, good enough that I'm going to follow a lot of these authors. The introduction urges the authors to spill their guts so that "daffodils, dollar bills, and bliss may rise from the sultry stains" and I think they succeeded in sprouting something beautiful from stories that might seem uncomfortable in their earnestness




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