What would you recommend as a good, raw novel/short story about characters with distorted sexuality? —Shira, Israel
Distorted—such an interesting word! If I understand your question, you’re looking for fiction about characters who feel that their desires have somehow been bent out of shape, whether by life or by something native to them. That describes many of Mary Gaitskill’s protagonists, for instance the two heroines of Two Girls, Fat and Thin, or the narrator of Veronica. Dennis Cooper’s early novels are full of this kind of anxiety—books like Closer, Frisk, and Guide. But maybe you’re thinking of another kind of story, like Lolita, where sex acts as a distorting lens for the narrator—but the reader sees clearly. You will find that sort of dramatic irony in Evan Connell’s Diary of a Rapist or Dom Casmurro, by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. You might also enjoy Lydia Davis’s story “Story,” about how hard it is to think straight when you’re unhappy in love. As the title suggests, it’s one of the oldest stories in the book.
I just read a blog post about why sending someone a “wink” on a dating Web site is stupid. This seemed like a reasonable argument to make. But then the blog writer went on to say that in real life, it is “totally unacceptable” to wink. The guy said that if you wink at a stranger in a bar, the stranger would call the police. Is that true? Or is it sometimes okay to wink (in real life)? Should I save it for specific situations? (Which ones?) —Georgia
You should believe only half of what you read on the Internet. To my knowledge, winking is neither illegal nor actionable in any county that permits the sale of alcoholic beverages. (I haven’t surveyed the rest.) Like the eye roll, the wink is a gesture of complicity. Between friends, it means you share a secret. Between strangers, it means you wish you had a secret to share. You should—you must!—wink whenever the spirit moves you.
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