An Intimate Wilderness: Lesbian Writers on Sexuality

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1992.

Cover of An Intimate Wilderness: Lesbian Writers on SexualityAn Intimate Wilderness: Lesbian Writers on Sexuality. Judith Barrington, editor. The Eighth Mountain Press, 1991. Paper. $14.95. (ISBN 0-933377-09-6) Hardcover. $24.95. (ISBN 0-933377-10-X)

An Intimate Wilderness gathers in one place the thoughts of forty-five well known writers. Nearly all of the material is reprinted from earlier works with an additional handful of pieces written expressly for this anthology. This collection of essays, short fiction and poetry by lesbian women is on the subject of sexuality, specifically lesbians and lesbian sexuality. This is not a collection of erotic writing, although some of the pieces might be considered erotic. This anthology is a sampler of perspectives and musings on what “lesbian sexuality” means.

The essays look at various aspects of this issue. In “Lesbian Sexuality: Joining the Dots,” Anna Livia writes about how lesbians write or don’t write about sex. In ‘The Erotic Life of Fictional Characters,” Barbara Wilson ponders whether or not lesbians should write about sex, and how graphic any such writing should be. Marilyn Frye in “Lesbian ‘Sex'” wonders whether existing language is adequate or if a new vocabulary should be invented: “… it seems to me that the attempt to encode our lustiness and lustfulness, our passion and our vigorous carnality in the words ‘sex’, ‘sexual’, and ‘sexuality’ has backfired. Instead of losing their phallocentricity, the words have imported the phallcentric meaning into and onto experience which is not in any way phallocentric.”

Other pieces pose similar questions and sometimes offer observations about ways that lesbians might discuss, or in fact, do discuss their sexuality. Intermingled with these theoretical discussions are many stories and poems which illustrate the range of erotic writing to be found in lesbian literature today.

An Intimate Wilderness gives a glimpse and an introduction to the work of each of these women writers. It is an excellent overview to the particular issue of lesbians who are writing and talking about lesbians and sex. Many other issues and concerns to lesbians and to the lesbian community are also presented in this collection.

Recommended for public and academic libraries.

Reviewed by Jo McClamroch
University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota

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