What, precisely, is ``bad sex''? Gathering contemporary writers from England, Ireland, Canada, Africa, and the US, Hoyland (Fathers & Sons, not reviewed) comes up with 21 quirky scenarios. Plots, for the most part credible, are more varied than one would imagine. The volume itself is masterfully orchestrated. Early stories are calm and tender, focusing on relationships in which sex plays a small part. Lisa Appignanesi's ``Beast'' captures the unique point of view of a husband whose feminist wife has just published a book about masturbation. In ``Strange Attractors'' Jane DeLynn tediously but perceptively chronicles the way people keep toeholds on dying relationships: Her narrator doesn't like drugs or alcohol but uses them ``for fear that we would no longer be able to converse at all if our bodies were not being affected by the same constituency of chemicals.'' As the collection progresses, the texts gradually become more explicit. Some can be discreet, if not charming—Victor Headley's ``Christmas Present,'' for instance, whose narrator, embroiled in a relationship built solely on sex, sees himself as a worthless stud. But in the stories that follow, the intensity increases, S&M imagery appears, hints of murder surface. (It's impossible to read Ian Breakwell's pseudo-diary, ``Fade To Black,'' without cringing.) Then, just when you want to toss this book away, the stories become gentle again—but now they are anything but innocent and contain some wonderful humorous touches. The married lover in Catherine Hiller's ``Some Rules About Adultery'' carefully stages three afternoons of bad sex in order to end a two-year affair. Mary Scott's ``D.I.Y.'' portrays a promiscuous woman, wanting a break from men, who goes on a ``women only'' tour, only to discover her trip-mates are all paired off. In perfect closure, the protagonist of Molly Brown's ``Choosing the Incubus'' finds her human lover pales beside her demonic nightly visitor. The title might be a turn-off, but the texts themselves are surprisingly enjoyable.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1994

ISBN: 1-85242-307-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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