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SEX, DRUGS, ROCK 'N' ROLL by Sarah Lefanu


Stories to End the Century

edited by Sarah Lefanu

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-85242-538-5
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

LeFanu’s new anthology (Obsession, 1995--co-edited by Stephen Hayward) features 16 tales energized by the upbeat power of the ’60s preoccupation with death, dancing, and sex. Most of these stories accept the 1960s as a kind of paradigm of hedonism, examining what has happened to our perceptions of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll in the years since. Laurie Colwin’s sunny, steeply uplifting “The Achieve of, the Mastery of the Thing” (from her 1981 collection, The Lone Pilgrim) nicely captures the ’60s first innocence and begins: “Once upon a time, I was Professor Thorne Speizer’s stoned wife, and what a time that was.” Colwin’s hash-laced reefer prose powerfully evokes a nostalgia for a time now thoroughly vanished, and is alone worth the price of the book. The other pieces offer a considerably more sardonic take on sex and salvation, tracing the ways in which reality has overtaken those by now long-ago expectations of transcendence, and illuminating what such things as sex, drugs, and fantasy mean to us now. John Saul’s conjugally delicious “Honeymoon” tells of a European couple in sex-addled Copenhagen who seem to be writing a handbook on 21st-century lovemaking based on their own research between the hotel sheets. The hallucinating young heroine of Joyce Carol Oates’s “A Woman Is Born To Bleed” has taken two tabs of LSD and feels like an eel being boiled, which is hardly the right time to face the huge fright of her first period. In “The Story of No,” Texan writer Lisa Tuttle probes the damage worked by forbidden lust/forbidden dreams, updating the famous porno classic The Story of O in nicely postmodern fashion. As Philip Larkin noted, sexual intercourse was invented in 1963. If, with the rock band Dr. Hook, you can sing of the ’60s that “I was stone and I missed it,” here’s a perfectly legal, nonparanoid way to recapture days that have disappeared over the hills like wild horses.