Editor Bright asks three writers to face a life-changing sexual event.
Most skilled here is William Harrison (the magnetic Mountains of the Moon, the magnificent The Blood Latitudes), who often writes about Africa when not presenting a futuristic action fantasy like The Roller Ball Murders. In “Shadow of a Man,” set in South Africa the year before Mandela’s release, Texan photographer Cal Vega is invited to Johannesburg to photograph an elderly retired general; his daughter wants the picture. Cal is a philosopher of the camera and has intriguing if cynical views about his art. Ellen, the general’s daughter, seduces Cal and takes him off to her beachfront home. Her sexual enjoyment turns on fantasy: she’s 15 and Cal is her 14-year-old brother, and so on. She takes him to a big party, mixed whites and blacks, and the real object of her seduction turns out to be that she wants many pictures of those at the party, because one is a mole. All turns tragic, and Cal’s thoughts focus on the shadow within, and on his stupid, stupid, stupid philosophy. Greg Boyd, relating “The Widow,” splits his page in half and on the top tells of “Karen Regent,” a widow who secretly writes a pornographic novel to make up for her nonorgasmic life, while on the bottom Boyd simultaneously tells her husband’s story after discovering and reading the book on the wife’s hard drive. In Karen’s novel, she goes off to France to recover from grief, discovers masturbation, and is seduced by a French photographer. In the sub-story, the shocked husband, not dead, tells of reading his wife Mandy’s tale and his rock-hard erection. Rawest of all, Tsaurah Litzky’s “The Motion of the Ocean” leaps from her brother’s bar mitzvah to 30 years later as the heroine more or less makes sense of her sex life while fitting photos into a fat new album. More sex in this one than in the other two combined.
Smartly done, at times deeply felt.