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Datura metel, or devil’s trumpet, on the cover of Tracey Slaughter’s new book (Photo: Oleg1824f / Adobe Stock)
Datura metel, or devil’s trumpet, on the cover of Tracey Slaughter’s new book (Photo: Oleg1824f / Adobe Stock)

BooksApril 11, 2021

The sexiest lines from New Zealand’s sexiest new book, Devil’s Trumpet

Datura metel, or devil’s trumpet, on the cover of Tracey Slaughter’s new book (Photo: Oleg1824f / Adobe Stock)
Datura metel, or devil’s trumpet, on the cover of Tracey Slaughter’s new book (Photo: Oleg1824f / Adobe Stock)

Sex is life in acclaimed Waikato writer Tracey Slaughter’s latest short story collection. 

Of course it’s there in Slaughter’s stories about affairs. In those pieces sex thumps and pants and dominates, it goes so hard it knocks grit off the ceiling and onto the bed, it sets fire to a marriage, it ends in blood and ruin. But sex is also there, throbbing away, in a story about a man watching his wife waste in the face of late-stage cancer. And it’s there, rutting against a fence, in a story about a woman whose son is paralysed in a rugby match. There it is, even, in if found please return to, the gorgeous, heartbreaking story about dementia that we published last year.

In this book, even when sex is not happening it’s still happening. When a teenage girl appears you can bet her thighs are baby-oiled. When a woman stands up from sex and goes about her day you know she’s going to tell us about the semen in her knickers. When she lies down alone at night she’ll hear the people in the next room banging.

God knows how Slaughter maintains it, all the urgency, the want, but there it is, everywhere, can’t miss it. And in this book it’s almost exclusively women doing the wanting. And even when it’s love it’s always pinned down by lust. And it is wonderfully written. Streaks ahead of all that erotica-veiled-as-contemporary fiction that’s coming out right now. Slaughter does it differently – vivid and intricate, visceral but also highly intelligent, changing all the time: 13 ways of looking at a blackbird, except with sex.

The thing is, trying to describe Slaughter’s writing doesn’t quite do the trick. And so I made this list, against all my prim better instincts, as a celebration of a writer who takes female desire seriously.

The cover of Devil's Trumpet (pink, with a blooming flower) and a photograph of a red-haired woman
Tracey Slaughter and her new book (Photo: Catherine Chidgey)

1.  Her mind feels thick and wild

2.  Pressed down on the whetstone of his fingers

3.  She’s about the countdown of buttons, the business of cotton getting shed, the hot cost of it all come undone

4.  Raising thick roses of flesh, leaving her plush

5.  Moving in her clothes all filmy and succulent, the pink hinge sending up bolts of electricity, so her trunk glides around, indifferent, gauzy, blissed

6.  Seam wet as a full mouth

7.  So the kiss could go on, could be wholesale with soft wet longing and dizzy with wishful heat, and he could part-lift her in his go-getter hands and even start some hijinks with her bra and she could … huff pleas in his neck until they were both a write-off

8.  My shorts ended high and tight. Bull’s-eye

9.  Your knees loose and hazy with warmth when you see him … in the hipline want is making you tense and sway with a non-committal rock

10. Watching the wet crook of everything we wanted

11.  I wanted to be marble, I wanted to be silk, so I’d stretched myself for hours, to clean, to shave

12.  He worked on her

13  Anything to have ridden his shuddering into a drowsy layout of limbs, still panting

14.  There’s the billow of him, kicking off all the covers, before the fabric melts to your skin

15.  I was twitching in the drift of my skirt. I couldn’t keep pinned to a seat at home for an instant. I’d be staring at the clock hands bang

16.  Lie back with your thighs in his thumbs’ soft garotte

17  When you were thumb-deep in my opaque school tights and I’d arch and coo on their 70-denier pucker

18.  She walks in wearing this dirty, heaven-sent dress

19.  Rigid on my teenage bedspread, cast up on one hand, fingertips working along to swashbuckling detail

20.  The hands are making her dip and rise again, arc and lap and rise

21.  Kisses in the threshed barn, the itchy glow of hay. Catching her breath in his laboured clothes, his musk of pine and turpentine and honey

22.  She used to lie awake to watch them tremoring, the sheets kicked dreamy in the aftermath of sweat

23.  Its girth and pump. The pulse at its base, the pearl at its tip

24.  Every small town we drive through has a Coronation Hall. And at least one place where I could fuck you

Devil’s Trumpet, by Tracey Slaughter (Victoria University Press, $30) is available from Unity Books Auckland and Wellington

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