There was no sleight of hand in titling this collection of short stories and poetry by C.E. Hoffman. All forty-two of these pieces deal with sex work and sex positivity at various levels of comfort and eroticism. Sometimes it’s merely transactional, sometimes it’s the sort of soul-to-soul connection that we’re all striving for, but it’s always done well, a rarity for a writer this young who’s compiling pieces over a decade of their life.
The aspects of this collection I found the most engaging, and which kept the pieces distinct despite the subject similarity, were the elements of magical realism and science fiction that Hoffman employs to great effect in some of their stories. Characters weave in and out of each others’ tales, set against the backdrop of the ominously titled Big City in a dystopian future where the demarcations between rich and poor are set in stone and there’s literally no way to cross that line. There is an indication in one story that this could be late 22nd century, but that could also be hyperbole in the dialogue.
Hoffman’s writing style reminds one of Burroughs at his most straightforward or Irvine Welsh at his strangest, but with a presentation dominated primarily by women and queer characters, a refreshing change in this particular milieu. This style is most effective in a triptych of stories that appear later in the collection (Bitches/Bass Lines/And Suicide). The reader is presented with a series of increasingly horrible events from the changing perspectives of the three characters involved. It careens between Cronenbergian body horror to street romance effortlessly, without feeling jarring or off-putting.
Hoffman is definitely a writer to watch for, and I look forward to what they give us next. My hope would be that they use some of these recurring characters as a springboard to a long form piece. I put this book down really wanting to know more about Ez, Eden, Jude, and V as they navigate increasingly impossible lives in the unforgiving Big City. –Justin Bookworm (Thurston Howl Publications, thurstonhowlpublications.com)