Peach Picks: Sex and the Aliens
by LA Warman
Inpatient Press | 2019 | novella
Is sex an escape from the drudgery of capitalism, or just another circuit through which power and exploitation act on our bodies? LA Warman’s Whore Foods is uninterested in easy answers as it plumbs the erotic potential of a notoriously class-stratified 21st century workplace, “Organic Grocery Store.” In a series of vignettes as inventive as they are hot, the cashier protagonist seduces and fantasizes about her despondent coworkers, her Lululemon-sporting customers, and even, in one delightfully top(ple)-the-corporation scene, a cash register conveyor belt. The sources and meanings of lesbian desire here are as varied as the organic yogurt aisle: Sexual encounters range from the transactional to the transcendent, and are infused always with liability and longing, often with humor, and sometimes with truly moving pangs of care. Warman shows how pursuing pleasure in this space can mean making something outside of its usual operations of extraction and surveillance—“We took this,” the narrator says after an orgy in the fruit-cutting room. “Most sex has a rhythm. Ours is not the cash register. Ours is not Conscious Capital.” The tragedy and the triumph of these stolen intimacies are the same: Always, in the end, we go back to work.
King of Joy
by Richard Chiem
Soft Skull Press | 2017 | novel
Halfway through Seattle-based writer Richard Chiem’s first novel, King of Joy, the story cuts abruptly from its highest point of tension (without spoiling anything, the scene involves copious amounts of champagne, a pack of sleeping dogs, a sprawling basement porn set, and a broom with a handle of solid gold) to its calmest, most blissed-out plateau: Corvus, our movie theater attendant-turned porn actress protagonist, dancing by herself for “the thrill of no special occasion.” In a review for The Stranger, Suzette Smith describes moves like this in King of Joy as “all the boring parts of porn”—to be fair, the plot does involve the adult film industry without including the sexually explicit scenes Smith seems to crave. But to clamor for more NSFW thrills is to criminally misunderstand the driving force behind the novel: the writing itself. Chiem’s prose, sparse yet dreamy, is perfectly tuned to mine the leveling effects of trauma and grief in a world defined by the wild excess of drugs, private islands, experimental theater, and a hippopotamus named Valerie. It’s a dark book, but it’s never quite a nightmare—think Denis Johnson if he listened to Robyn. King of Joy was included in The Millions’ Most Anticipated 2019 list, and deservedly so. Like Corvus, dance with this one alone—a new book by Richard Chiem is a special occasion.
Blind Landing Experimental Unit [BLEU]
by Alex Webb
A. Webb | 2015 | photography
In Blind Landing Experimental Unit [BLEU], Alex Webb explores the 1980 Rendlesham Forest Incident, also known as Britain’s Roswell—a site that has become subject to myriad conspiracy theories over the years. With a combination of abstracted detail shots and subject representational imagery, Webb examines the incident through subjects associated with surveillance cameras; the only writing found in the pages is a printed copy of a redacted government report detailing the incident. The images’ lack of context pushes the viewer-reader to look for more information in the content, leading us to come up with our own theory of what happened. Webb’s sequencing and selection of surveillance images creates a vague account of the event, and each of the photographs has a similar sense of ethereality, resulting from his use of lighting, color, and time. It’s the supplemental imagery that brings us back to the subject at hand. This book is a beautiful exploration of the mythology surrounding Britain’s Roswell, and is successful in what it leaves to the imagination.
“Peach Picks” is a column of literary news and recommendations written by the editors of Peach Mag, an online literary magazine based in Buffalo, New York. For inquiries, contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.