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The Vine

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Home » The Vine

The Vine: April 25, 2014

Submitted by on April 25, 2014 – 8:40 AM9 Comments


About 15 years ago I picked up a book of seven or so short stories in my local bookstore. The stories were written by a young woman — I think this was her first published book.

It was a hardcover in the new- release section, so it would have come out in the late '90s or early 2000s.

The stories were about sexual power exchange, and so had a D/S theme, but this wasn't erotica of even the "Story of O" or "50 Shades of Grey" type — they were more literary, something that might have been reviewed in the NY Times Book Review (back in the pre-"50 Shades" era.)

I lost or gave away the book years ago, and the only story I have a clear memory of — the one I would like to read again — was about a woman who began studying a martial art and ended up having an affair with her sensei. The beginning of the story described her erotic frisson at having arrived late to class and being made to wait, unacknowledged, in the back of the room until after the opening exercises, then having to humbly bow to the teacher and the other students. After a while they begin an affair, and the power balance shifts subtly from the teacher to the student. There was also something, either in that story, or another one, about an inner-lip tattoo that said, upside-down, "See?"

The dust jacket might have been a dark pinkish-mauve color, and the author's first name might have been something like "Alyssa" or "Alanna." I remember her being striking-looking in her author's photo, with long dark wavy hair, a little like Idina Menzel.

I'd really like to get my hands on another copy of this book, but I can't remember any useful details like the title or the author's last name, and searches for D/S short stories and stories with inner-lip tattoos have not so far been fruitful, so I thought I'd give the Nation a try.


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  • Katie says:

    Rose, can you tell us where the bookstore you bought the book at is/was located? I ask in case it turns out to be a lesser-known book by a local author.

  • Rose says:

    I bought it at the Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island. My impression is that she was a NYC author, but that isn't based on anything solid.

  • clobbered says:

    Hmm, in the general it sounds like Mary Gaitskill's collection 'Bad Behaviour' but the specifics don't match. Just mentioning it in case there's a possibility of conflation going on.

  • D says:

    I have no idea what this could be but I hope the mystery is solved because I want to read this! I put out feelers on goodreads and FetLife, maybe someone there will know.

  • D says:

    The best lead I've gotten so far is Meeting the Master by Elissa Wald

    You can see various covers on the goodreads page, and go from there to buy it if it's the right one.

  • Rose says:

    It wasn't the Gaitskill book, though similar in tone from what I can remember and tell from Amazon. (And thanks for the rec, I've ordered it.) I'm starting to think it was one of those thousands of books that are published every year that disappear with hardly a splash. It's probably long out of print. I was hoping that someone might have read it and remembered it, but I guess it's less likely to be found the children's and YA books that are usually asked about here.

  • Just me says:

    The martial arts scenario sounds very much like one from Charlaine Harris' Lily Bard/Shakespeare series (not sure which book), but they're mystery novels, not short stories. The lip tattoo is not from that series, at least that I recall. Maybe different books that you read near the same time?

  • Rose says:

    Yes! Thank you, D, it's definitely Meeting the Master by Elissa Wald. Off to track down a copy!

  • D says:

    Yay – so excited I finally got to answer one of these! I have to credit the good folks at FetLife for the answer really, but so glad I could help. :-)

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