The Lurid Sea
This review is NSFW
The erotic is eternal. To touch is to forget your age or inexperience and simply commune.
My summary: After immortal demigod Nerites is cursed by his father Neptune to suck d*ck for all time, he helplessly follows the swirls and flushes of bathhouse drains, arriving in new eras and lands to please infinite men. After a timeless time, he realizes his half-brother Obsidio, son of the death god Pluto, is following him, leaving carnage in his wake as he weaponizes his possessive, black semen of doom.
Review: After glancing at the book cover alone, I thought I was going to dive into a queer mermaid tale a la Mermaid in Chelsea Creek. I didn’t realize this title is erotica—not romance, not erotic romance, but a straight up fever dream of hazy and primal lust. This book contains: incestuous demigods, poesy, meandering time travel, dubious consent, the word “fellatiolympics,” hallucinogenic phantasmagoria, underworld rivers of semen, and fecal matter. This book does not contain: a storyline, deep characterization, anything more than the faint resemblance of a plot. I recommend it enthusiastically to the open-minded reader.
Tom Cardamone takes us on a surreal dream journey of unrestricted desire. Here is a person’s masturbatory brain, laid out on the page. Its atavism is presented in poetic prose that fires off literary synapses with its unexpected phrases such as “ouroboros of timeless semen” and “my impious mouth, needing to be filled, pummeled.”
The negative ratings and minimal attention The Lurid Sea has received makes the perfect point about how the m/m community pushes out actual gay writers and their stories. This book, whether it was intended to be or not, is a refutation to the heteronormative porn-inspired smut of m/m romance. So often I read sex scenes and feel utterly bored, as otherwise well-developed characters imitate the performative motions of real life sex workers. I don't want to see porn ever, not even in my own head when I’m reading romance or erotica. I don't want to see something stilted, scripted, unimaginative, exploitative, and heteronormative.
Tom Cardamone, in contrast, describes insane scenes of erotica, using imagery I've never thought of before, employing phrases that have never entered my head before. It's gay, literary ingenuity. It’s pure carnality that could only be described accurately with sophisticated prose. Cardamone comes from academia and his afterword is a long list of book recommendations, giving us an appreciated glimpse into his inspirations and influences.
The Lurid Sea comes from the bath house, AIDS era of gay America. It is in conversation with other texts, and won’t be appreciated by many readers. I've been thinking a lot about who this community makes room for, and it's often not writers like Tom Cardamone and his cohorts, even though they're the gay writers who first influenced me, spoke to me, touched my soul. These are the books I really want to read. The Lurid Sea was a great and bizarre antidote to so much of the strife going on in m/m right now. Open it up and be immediately sucked, bathhouse style, into someone else’s dream.
If anyone is interested in more Tom Cardamone, here's an interview with him, in which he unsurprisingly reveals that he likes Nabokov.