MixedThe Guardian (UK)A fatal premise is revealed: writing about sex is risky because one’s own predilections might be unmasked in the process. This is odd, given for example the recent anthology Kink...whose contributors...felt no need for such a cover. Anonymous Sex feels old-fashioned, as if it’s arrived too late, too apologetically, on the stage ...The book’s premise shares something with one of the UK’s most wince-inducing exports: the Bad Sex award in fiction ... Anonymous Sex ostensibly does the opposite – it is encouraging sex writing. But it wants things both ways: to create the conditions for an untrammelled erotic freedom in writing, while also inviting us to sniff the writer out. Some of the stories are fantastic; several are fine; a few are not. Some are elegant and arch, some witty and bawdy ... But what makes sex writing bad is what makes any writing bad: if it is evasive, if it is unsure about why it exists, if it doesn’t know what it’s doing, if it retreats into metaphor as a substitute for precision ... What if the editors had, instead of conferring anonymity, encouraged the authors to write as much as possible without the censorious eye over the shoulder?
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)The risk of writing fiction about phenomena that have saturated the media is that it provokes precisely this kind of mental logging and comparison; a riffling through the Rolodex of recent scandals. This may explain why Cline often withholds the turbulent events at the centre of her stories ... Overly familiar plots are another potential pitfall in this terrain ... The action is a little predictable...This tension exemplifies a feature of the collection as a whole: Cline is at her strongest evoking specific places rather than the well-worn grooves of public narrative; mining not the all-too-recognisable contours of contemporary preoccupations, but their presence in stranger corners ... Cline captures unflinchingly the rocky recalibrations at work in sexual culture. What saves the book from the pitfalls of the generic – from being a series of exercises on contemporary life – is her remarkable ability to plunge us, suddenly, into a world so finely contoured, so throbbing with specificity, that it swells and obliquely speaks volumes.