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Fall Fiction 2004

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I have always been fascinated by sex, I suppose as an extension of my fascination with anything people pretend doesn’t exist or whisper about. As a writer, I have come to the conclusion that there are varieties of sex: first, naturally occurring or evolutionary sex, which occurs at a seemingly natural point in a narrative. It can be romantic, procreative, comforting, but it’s generally positive, upbeat, welcome, etc. Then there are the varieties that, frankly, I find more interesting: habitual, addictive, weird sex that comes out of the need to scratch some perverse itch; sex for revenge; sex as a substitution for violence; sex for "healing;" sex as part of a game.

There’s nothing sexier than reading something that turns you on — maybe that’s just a writer’s point of view, but I find that words are more provocative than photos. With language as the prompt, you can use your imagination to make the images custom-fit your fantasy. But whether one is writing good sex, bad sex, weird sex, surprising sex, sex without satisfaction, the greatest sex in the world, it is incredibly difficult to do. The art of writing seduction, the attempt to make clear who did what to whom and to make it seem effortless (without enormous premeditation, or perhaps with enormous premeditation) is nearly impossible. I used to think that if I weren’t a novelist I would become a sex therapist — think of how much you learn about a person by hearing their sexual history.

This issue is about the thing we all do, secretly love to talk about, but dare not mention. It is about the humor of sex, the drama of sex, the disappointment of sex, the darkness of the soul that gets played out as sex. Among the pieces here are an excerpt from Notice, a novel by Heather Lewis, a gifted writer who killed herself in 2002 (her despondency was exacerbated by the fact that her publisher deemed the book too dark, unpublishable). Notice is her best: it is brutal, it is raw, it is painfully honest in the way that fiction can sometimes be more accurate than fact. It is an honor to have a piece of it here, to celebrate Heather’s life and work. From Julia Slavin we have a painfully funny wild romp in the land of what I’d call good bad sex, while Will Heinrich’s "Stalin’s Mustache" is an adventure in the comic absurd. From Mark Jude Poirier comes a wonderfully rich piece inspired by living in an old house above the landlord’s grouchy, bigoted father. Nelly Reifler, author of See Through, has given us "Wakeup," a beautiful, haunting story about love, memory and loss. Enjoy. — A.M. Homes  

In This Issue:
Stalin’s Mustache by Will Heinrich

"He resolved that not another day would pass in his life without a minimum of three random sexual conquests."

/fiction/9.13

Don’t Look Now by Heather Lewis

"He sat me down on the living-room couch then called his wife to join us. He’d told her to expect me, or to expect something."

/fiction/9.14

Water, Water Everywhere by Julia Slavin

"I knew about a man who could only ejaculate if a woman bent over on a bathroom saying, ‘I’ve got to lose five,’ as he entered her from behind."

/fiction/9.15

Wakeup by Nelly Reifler

"She watched the physical therapist gently encouraging him. She imagined that the young woman wanted to move her hand to his groin, to cup it and stroke."

/fiction/9.16

From Jason R. by Mark Jude Poirier

"The fear and confusion in my stomach dissipated when I slid the folded note into the crack. A letter to no one. A mailbox to nowhere."

/fiction/9.20

Your Mother Was a Fish by A.M. Homes

"Men found her scales incredibly attractive; it was considered good luck to rub her thighs."

/fiction/9.21

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Fall Fiction 2003 Special Issue

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