Remember the fairytale about the girl and the penis bush? No, me neither.
But the premises of the nine and a half “fairytales” in Grow A Pair are swollen with surreal eroticism and a weird, lavish imagination.
As well as harking back to horny early puberty fantasies, the stories in Joanna Walsh’s collection also resound with tender-hearted humour, aimed at adults whose sexual flights of fancy has been curtailed to the “most private thing I’m willing to admit” field on an internet dating site.
Grow A Pair is a short story collection a little like The Bloody Chamber after a couple of gins. ‘A girl passed a penis-bush growing in someone else’s garden, and picked a ripe dick because she couldn’t resist it’ – it grins at you from page one.
Sex in Grow A Pair is lively, dangerous, and rather funny. It’s a positive menagerie of wild genitalia: ‘vaginas of every colour flew from tree to tree, flapping their delicate labial wings’; dicks holler and swear; orgasms can be tapped like little-used letters on a keyboard.
And that wicked imagination also satirises the art of loving: pushing boring dates off cliffs, skewering lesbians to death on a detachable penis and sentencing ex-lovers to death by orgasm.
There are serious turns too – a sinister monologue from the brothel, and the collection’s resonant afterword – as well as an opaque short about spam emails.
But even in its straight-faced moments, Walsh’s book is transporting, and touches a corner of your brain rarely accessed by most contemporary sex writing and blogging.
“Life isn’t a fairytale,” the authorial voice admits in her last story. She nods to the nature of this imaginative world so much like the first shags after ‘I love you’: imaginative, hilarious and deeply fulfilling.
For my money Joanna Walsh is one of the best young writers on Twitter now; Deborah Levy cites her as ‘fast becoming one of our most important writers’.
Grow A Pair is published by Readux, a small literary press in Berlin, and has been released as part of a collection with three other erotic works, including a new translation by Saskia Vogel. Incidentally, Grow A Pair was also very easy to buy and read – it cost barely £1.50 and flew as quickly as a delicate winged cunt to my Kindle, direct from the publisher.
Joanna Walsh Grow a Pair; Readux; ISBN: 978-3-944801-42-1, $1.99, e-book version from publishers.