Updated: Nov 28, 2019
On 17 October, we had our first reading for the Stories About Penises anthology (Goldsmiths College, London). I was really pleased with the turnout, although interesting to note the majority were women. To be precise, there was one man in the audience. And it absolutely could have been one of those things that one shouldn't read into, but was interesting.
First Liam Hogan read from his short story 'Better Babies', the hilarious story (fiction) of a man who exposes his testicles to doses of radiation to create superior 'super-charged' sperm, thus the title 'Better Babies'. Then Gerry Marsh read from her short story 'He' (fiction), a thoughtful piece about a middle-aged man reflecting on his family life, and his potency. Then Tobsha Learner read from her short story 'Homage', a comic tale (nonfiction) about a short play she wrote years ago with a seven-foot penis as the main character, to be exact, the penis of a porn star.
The readings went well and afterwards discussion brought up topics of gender and genre. For gender, we talked about how it might be different for women and men to read the anthology, and how we all have different 'comfort levels' when it comes to talking about penises. By now the only man in the audience had left, so we asked the women what they thought, and I seem to remember some pretty blank faces, but there were a few nods in agreement. I guess we could chalk this up to a racy topic combined with a shy audience of 20-somethings. Then we asked the event coordinator, a man in his late-twenties, who confirmed it might be awkward for some men, but he wasn't really sure. Then someone jumped in and started talking about how gay men are more comfortable talking about penises than straight men. And on and on it went.
When we got to the topic of genre someone said - Where is the book going sit in the bookshop, as in which shelf?
And I said - I really don't know. It's an experiment.
Which it is. A thematic anthology with a mishmash of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and a wide range of takes on the ‘humble’ penis. 21 to be exact. Written by skilled writers, well-established writers, award-winning writers, and one notable best selling author. The stories are either humorous, or dealing with sexuality, or have a feminist slant, or are postmodern, or flat-out erotic, or dealing with the medical and anatomical aspect of the penis. And most are a combination of these.
The common thread throughout the anthology is that the penis, this iconic image of power, pleasure and pain, is a source of conflict that can't quite be resolved.
Julianne Ingles' short story 'We're So Sorry' will be published in the Stories About Penises anthology. Release date 28 November 2019. Orders are now available.