Maybe it’s because I’m a crazy book lover, but to me there is no better present for any occasion than a book. So, if you’re buying someone—lover, girlfriend, long-term partner—something this Valentine’s Day, consider one of these excellent options:
I really can’t recommend this book highly enough: it’s sexy as hell, diverse, smart—what more could you want in a collection of erotica? And it’s all written by femmes! This anthology has something for most people, including stories featuring trans men, bisexual cis women, sex workers, drag queens, vampire BDSM, romance, cunnilingus while driving in a snow storm, and a woman taking revenge on the man who stole her panties at the laundromat. You’re sending a pretty clear sexy message if you give someone this book on the 14th.
The message you’re sending with this Winterson book is perhaps less certain than With a Rough Tongue. But you’re undoubtedly showing that you have amazing taste in literature. Written on the Body is a novel worth reading simply for the gorgeousness of the language alone. Not only is it a beautifully, beautifully written book, it’s a genderless/nameless love story and a philosophical meditation on love: its glory, its pain, its strangeness, its joy, its obsessiveness. That said, perhaps not the best present for someone you haven’t been dating for very long. It might be a tad much. Wait until next year.
Poetry, of course, is a natural match for love and romance and everything in between. And in my humble opinion, there is no better poet writing in English today than Dionne Brand. It’s kind of hard for me to pick a single collection of hers to recommend, because they’re all just achingly beautiful, showcasing a facility and artistry with language that I’ve just never seen elsewhere. Land to Light On is an early book of hers, the first one I ever read, and it’s an homage to a failed revolution, praise to the people, and a prayer for the land. It also contains this:
god, I watched you all, watched and watched and in the end
could not say a word to you that was not awkward and insulting,
there was really no way to describe you and what I wanted
to say came out stiff and old as if I could not trust you
to understand my new language which after all I had made
against you, against the shapes of your bodies, against your
directions, your tongues, the places your feet took you
It’s hard to describe love, to write about love in any way, without resorting to tired clichés, metaphors, similes, everything that has been used before, and better, by other people. In her genre-defying poetry collection, Salah manages to look at some of these old love-tinged images, like roses, and make them fresh. Some of these poems are romantic, addressed to the beloved; some are sexy, the kind that might make you blush if you read them in public. It might just be the book to merge the erotic appeal of With a Rough Tongue and the literary allure of Jeanette Winterson, if that’s what you’re going for.