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British women writers get down ‘n’ dirty

What do Fay Weldon, Kathy Lette, and Louise Doughty have in common with the Marquis de Sade, Anaïs Nin, and Georges Bataille? Stumped? They’ve all dipped their ink in the well of pornography.

The Times Online is reporting that Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown, is set to publish In Bed With, a collection of 20 erotic stories written by acclaimed women novelists under pseudonyms. Dubbed the “cliterati” by Lette, one of the book’s authors and a co-commissioner of stories, the contributors have each chosen a “nom de porn,” such as Minx Malone, Storm Henley, and Minty Mountjoie.

According to the Times article, the contributors are being very cagey about which story belongs to which author:

Lette refused to confirm or deny which story she wrote. I would luv to help but would have to hand in my ovaries, she emailed.

Doughty, a novelist and former Booker prize judge, confessed that her story is set abroad (which narrows it down to three) and that her style is a form of literary homage. Mine is also not that explicit, she said. I did, though, find it both a challenge to write and very freeing. [Rachel] Johnson, whose most recent novel is Notting Hell, revealed that not even my husband knows which one I did. Although when I told him I’d contributed, he said, ˜Why on earth did they ask you to help as you don’t know anything about sex’.

Johnson said she would love to help you identify my story. But my hands are tied while a very big man is doing something unmentionable to me.

Not everyone approached to contribute to the anthology agreed to participate. Among the abstainers were Jilly Cooper and Joanna Trollope.

An interesting publishing sidenote: one of Little, Brown’s other imprints is Virago, which publishes feminist books. The authors of the erotic anthology have argued that feminism and pornography are not incompatible.