Voyeurism, bestiality, incest. These are the themes in each of the three linked erotic stories in Krissy Kneen’s Triptych: an erotic adventure. Not standard fare for most of us when it comes to erotic fiction. Like a lot of readers I prefer my written sex to be between consenting and unrelated adults. When I picked this up I didn’t expect Kneen to cover territory quite this challenging, however, I got a real kick out this intriguing book.
Krissy Kneen has described Triptych as porn rather than erotica and I think this speaks strongly to how fine a line there is between the two. By broad definition erotica explores darker taboo human sexual urges. It tends to be written in a more literary style and can be uncomfortable to read because it’s so challenging. Triptych ticks both these boxes – the writing is at times exquisite and my delight in Kneen’s words often carried me through the squirmy moments I had while reading some of the more testing scenes in this work – of which there are plenty.
Porn on the other hand is very much about the mechanics of sex. It’s light on emotion focusing on the titillation and tease of rising physical desire. There were times when Triptych slipped into this style, if only from an ironic/comic perspective. As I read I got the sense of a writer with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek.
A teenage girl, egged on by a friend, allows a pony to mount her, then goes on later to explore her sexuality in the sea with a couple of octopi. Two siblings in a long term relationship hit the funk of middle age and their sex life hits the skids. An introvert who loves the isolation of silence discovers the pleasures of watching anonymous sexual play and the power of words. It was funny and weirdly sexy and clearly not meant to be taken too seriously.
What I most enjoyed about this book, aside from the excellent writing, was Kneen’s ability to normalise sexual experience that would usually make your stomach turn. She introduces the incestual relationship between a brother and sister (Romulus and Remus) in a way that pares away judgement. The characters she paints are not a couple of sneaky deviates. They are normal every day people in love, working and living in a changing long term relationship. They just so happen to be related. Squirmy, icky territory I know, but surprisingly readable and some of the most erotic scenes in the book are in this story.
The stories appear completely unrelated but Kneen manages to develop clever links so that by the end of the book we have returned to where we started, like a snake biting its tail. Her prose maintains an undulating level of erotic tension throughout so that each story rises and falls until reaching a strong erotic climax.
The stories are inspired and underpinned by three well known works of art that precede the beginning of each story. Kneen harnesses the erotic content of these artworks and pours it in as an underlying theme, adding a delicious layer of meaning. It’s this layering that moves Triptych away from porn and into the realm of erotica.
Triptych had me feeling deeply uncertain and uncomfortable at times, which I expect is what the author was aiming for. I tip my hat to Kneen. It’s quite an achievement to write about controversial topics in such an accessible, wry, intimate, comic way. It’s not for everyone, but if you feel adventurous I do recommend it. Just remember to bring along your sense of humour.
Title: Triptych - an erotic adventure
Author: Krissy Kneen
Publisher: Text Publishing
Genre: Literary erotica
Length: 212 pages
Rating: 4 stars