Sugar in My Bowl essays edited by Eric Jong
OK so it’s a funny list of summer reading, I know, but I’m an aesthete and a feminist. And I am, I suppose, fairly obsessed with the nature of intimacy (which includes sex.) I love the men like Salter who are alpha-artist-studs but I also have to love Erica Jong who spoke her truth at a time when my mother was busy having me. She paved a way for my generation of women in which we could not only like sex but also speak and write about it. And so I wanted to see what her cadre of women writers had to say on the subject. All good writing seems to be an act of sifting, shaking the colander for a rough arrangement of gold and also the ordinary sand of storytelling; its an effort to reveal the right amount and conceal the right amount. I found remarkable work here by Daphne Merkin about an early, sadistic lover, Anne Roiphe about a children’s game of “doctor,” Elisa Albert’s “A Fucking Miracle,” about the stormy sex after a fight which created her first child, and Meghan O’ Rourke’s gorgeously elegiac story of a nostalgic tryst following her mothers funeral. These stories had sifted in just the right way, revealing the personal, yet not unloading every detail and thus stripping the story of mystery or interpretation. (This was the, albeit well- intentioned, flaw of some of the other stories.) Still others were clever but coy and revealed nothing, leaving a dry, unappealing, magazine-like aftertaste, the writer’s claim (or cop out) being that they were “prudes” or simply squeamish about all things sexual. Can you be a writer and omit from your oeuvre a whole component of human experience? Jong, most emphatically, says no. The bulk of these works displayed a bravery, grace and sheer skill rarely as abundant in an anthology. I loved reading it.