Sunday, April 05, 2020

Nine unabashed books about bodies

Cai Emmons is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son (Harcourt), The Stylist (HarperCollins), and Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). A sequel to Weather Woman, called Sinking Islands, is forthcoming.

Her latest book is the story collection, Vanishing, winner of the 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

At LitHub, Emmons tagged nine books that "are notable for the frank eye they bring to physical pleasure and pain, and the overall messiness of human bodies." One title on the list:
Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior

Mary Gaitskill’s short story collection, Bad Behavior, contains nine stories that feature lonely characters living in New York, working class and professional people, many of whom try to sedate themselves with drugs or sadomasochistic sex. Refusing the sensational, Gaitskill writes matter-of-factly, using plainspoken language to describe the sometimes shocking things her characters do to make their lonely lives more palatable. In the story “Romantic Weekend” she writes: “Queasily, he stripped off her clothes and put their bodies in a viable position. He fastened his teeth on her breast and bit her. She made a surprised noise and her body stiffened. He bit her again, harder. She screamed. He wanted to draw blood. Her screams were short and stifled. He could tell that she was trying to like being bitten, but that she did not. He gnawed her breast. She screamed sharply. They screwed. The broke apart and regarded each other warily.” Gaitskill’s objective, almost deadpan description of such scenes demands that the reader, too, does not turn away.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue