||Apr 12 2002
T S Gray's Chautauqua combines quirky characters, southern superstition, and small town life together with the steamy undercurrents of a sexual cauldron. Unlike most story collections the characters who inhabit these pages wander in and out of each other's stories as background characters so that the reader has the impression of coming to know them gradually over the course of the book. This is not to say that there are no suprises, because the stories don't stop with the characters' public appearances. Pulling back the curtain on their private interactions, Ms Gray invites us to witness the intimate and erotic encounters that take place after dinner parties and in the neighbor's backyard.
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They drove through lush farmland with a cool sliver of moon rising behind them. Breakfast came just after sunrise on the outskirts of Atlanta. By the time that the sun turned the morning bright with possibility they were on I-24. John watched silently as she steered around curves with misty water falling from stone mountains.
Signs warned of steep grades ahead. Trucks eased into the outer lanes. She passed cars and pick-ups faster and faster through the twists and turns of the highway. The needle edged up to 85 then 90 and still she drove. The pull of inertia fought the thrust of the engine. Tension began to form low in her belly as she rode the wave of excitement. They crested a peak with a rush that energized her body until she felt she could spread her arms to the winds and light would burst from her fingertips.
His voice barely penetrated the aura of adrenaline that thrummed in her ears.
"Pull the god-damned car over."
"God, if I'd known you had a fucking death wish I would have chained you to the passenger side in Chattanooga."
Annie's hands shook and her heartbeat raced in her chest. She eased them onto the shoulder of the road. When she turned to look at him, his eyes were hidden behind mirrored glasses and the reflection of clear blue sky seemed exactly right.
"Can't you feel it! It's like, better than flying! All that power."
"I feel it, Annie. Now it's my turn to drive."
By Mary Elizabeth Thompson
November 30, 2004
In Chautauqua, Mississippi, so much more goes on behind the closed doors of
the Victorian homes than a casual drive up the tree-lined streets might
show. T. S. Gray takes us behind those closed doors in this series of
loosely interwoven short stories and gives us a rare glimpse into the
private desires and fantasies of the town's not-so-prudish citizens.
Ms. Gray's storytelling begins with an Indian Shaman whose irresistible
passion overcomes an immovable culture. This passion sets the foundation for
the future town, and we are introduced to a cast of modern-day characters
all inexplicably drawn into passionate encounters. We are intrigued as Ms.
Gray draws us into their webs of relationships and gossip.
What really happens in the gazebo between the new teacher and the local
architect? What will the real estate saleswoman do with that razor? And
what games are the pastor and his wife up to? Chautauqua answers these
questions and more. Ms. Gray relies on our voyeurism to pull us along
through each story as she lets us peek through the windows and over the
hedges in this small southern town.
These stories are not for the inhibited or faint of heart, but saucy realism
never is. Sex isn't risk-free for the characters of her stories, not even
when it's in a gazebo. T. S. Gray captures the fumbling doubt as well as
the adventuresome spirit that humans embody when they risk love and passion,
whether that's in a long-term marriage or a one night stand. It's this
honesty that is the strength of her writing: her own willingness to risk and
to show the riskiness of relationships.
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Reader Reviews for "Chautauqua"
|Reviewed by L Fortease
|Previously I'd imagined erotica to be, basically, a setup for the titillating stuff ("Jane meets Joe, yadda yadda yadda; let's get to them getting it on, already!"). But Gray helped me journey from giggling voyeurism to true admiration of the potential of the genre.
Sure, there's plenty of steam rising from Chautauqua, and if you're reading this on the bus ride home you may find yourself shifting in your seat quite a bit, or wondering who's reading over your shoulder and whether they can now see through your business clothes to something quite a bit more visceral. But for me the true delight of this book isn't the admittedly proficient, frequent, and imaginative tourneys into matters of the flesh, but how and why we get there.
This one is "Our Town" for grown-ups. We meander down the lovely lanes of a beautiful Southern village, meeting all the quirky people who live and ply their trade there, as well as their relatives and friends who've escaped the confines of small-town, only to find themselves drawn back for one reason or another. We meet not only the young and beautiful, but all the ordinary folks of all ages. We meet the preacher and his wife who cannot forgive herself. We meet a sadly unhappily married woman and her sympathetic best friend. We meet an elderly lady and her adorable little dog, whose small presence twines around through almost all the tales -- just one of the threads binding this community up in complex interconnections from one person to the next; from one couple to their neighbors.
This is not only a sympathetic and often explicit look inside folk's windows; this is a window to their souls. What makes man and woman tick? Why do they seek what pain and pleasure they find? How do they feel about their own inhibitions and exhibitions?
You won't be sorry you peeked in Gray's authorial window!