Sugar In My Bowl by Erica Jong

I need a little sugar in my bowl,
I need a little hot dog, on my roll
I can stand a bit of lovin', oh so bad,
I feel so funny, I feel so sad
-Bessie Smith

Here is the thing about a collection of essays, I know not every piece in the book is going to be stellar. Some will be mediocre, a few might be flat out bad, but the hope is that there will be enough good ones to hold the reader's interest. I've got to say Sugar in My Bowl did not deliver enough essays to keep me very interested. I'll admit, about halfway through the book I began to skim and even skip essays that didn't grab my interest in the first couple of pages. I decided life is too short to read vanilla. I should mention that this collection also included short stories, one graphic novel and a trialogue. Some of these pieces of fiction resembled erotica rather than the real women and real sex I was told I'd be reading about. These bits really didn't do it for me. Compared to the essays they felt, surprise surprise, less authentic and somewhat campy.

The lack of diversity was also disappointing. When "real women" talk about "real sex" I want variety. However, each story related was told from the viewpoint of a straight woman. The focus of each story was heterosexual sex. It would have been nice to have a bisexual, lesbian, or transgender viewpoint in an essay or two. Let's be real, this is the 21st century and diversity keeps it interesting. There were two bisexual women who wrote stories for the collection, but their stories didn't reflect their bisexual viewpoint and instead focused on male and female relationships. If I hadn't googled the contributors, I would have never known. Moreover, there was very little diversity in terms of race and ethnicity of authors.

With all that said, I do want to highlight the portions of the book I did enjoy. My favorite piece is entitled "The Diddler" by J.A.K. Andres, in which she discusses her young daughter's tenancy to, well, diddle herself. It's fresh, well-written, and laugh-out-loud funny. I also enjoyed "Cramming It All In: A Satire" by Susan Kingsloving and "My First Time, Twice" by Ariel Levy. I did liked that the general concept of the book is unique to the publishing world and while there were bits worth reading, as a whole this book left me uninspired.

Publisher: Ecco Press, 2011


  1. It's so sad this turned out to be a dud cos the premise is interesting and the essays you liked have the best titles! It's extra disappointing their "real women" fit a narrow spectrum too. Ah well.

  2. I love Ariel Levy. Love. Her. Also, this sounds sucky, but maybe like it's worth looking for the few essays you recommend. So thanks for doing the leg work for me :)

  3. Well, shoot. I bought this right after xmas and haven't read it, yet--I was really hoping it would be good. I'm still going to read it, but it's good to know all of this going in...now I won't be surprisingly disappointed with the things you mentioned.

  4. That's a real shame, I hate it when books remain below their potential like that. From the title it sounds like it could be really different and accommodate a lot of diversity, but... no.

  5. That's a shame because the premise of the book sounds very good and I've had it on my wishlist for a while. I'm shocked that there wasn't more diversity in the kinds of sex mentioned.

  6. Bummer about this one. I've always been curious about Jong's book Fear of Flying, but I haven't read it yet.

  7. Interesting review and I now know I can give these essays a miss.

  8. I enjoyed this one more than you did, but I do agree that the diversity could be amped up quite a lot. :)