Sex with strangers
By Michael Loventhal
Michael Lowenthal’s new story collection, “Sex with Strangers”, is nimble in its details. The stories are kept in gay clubs, on cruises, along beautiful beaches and in the humble small town kitchens. Their characters are men and women, gay and straight, at home and abroad, prettier and less beautiful than they once were. It is also easy to tell their story. Nothing seems stressful, and the stories slow down and pick up speed until a climax of a strange kind comes to their climax.
It is a collection about relationships, with themselves and with others. The opening story, “Over Boy” takes us as a man in the familiar bump-and-grind of a gay club, partying on his 29th birthday, grappling with the angst of growing up. Long and lightly “Here You Are”, Father Tim, a newlywed priest, spends his first week on a job stationed on a cruise ship and finds himself in the role of pastor when he encounters an old flame . Counseling of a married woman was also attempted through an awakening. The one-kilo kitchen drama is “Uncle Kent”, in which a woman worries that her young daughter Titan is attracting the attention of Kent’s family friend and father. Then we have a handful of collection of lukewarm set-piece stories, including the tepid “thief” who happens to be in a resort as a middle-aged gay man in an open marriage, about his body Keeps disgusting thoughts in me.
The stories are studded with memorable glimpses of superb writing and splendid details. A scene of a character’s night out, for example, offers this attention to the nature of club culture: “Generations of club children increasingly succeeded themselves as lab rats.” There are also some moments of real human connection, such as when Father Tim takes on his responsibility for a new charge: “Can he condemn his thrill in a change, even realizing it?” She just told – better than she ever managed – the center-force of opening herself to God, when suddenly she began to be at the center of life. “
Lovental is a sensitive crawler of life-threatening tensions. But there is also a streak that runs through the book. Sagging bodies and lame hair and bad skin populate the stories. Sometimes this is a useful effect, as in “Over Boy”, when the narrator reflects: “For her, who was a young beauty, beauty Was Young, and as he walked away from his ideal, he realized. “But as often, Lothal’s narrator swings over burnt skin and” sauerkraut hair “and tackles the makeup of secondary and tertiary characters, though the lack of remarkable beauty was a moral failure. I found myself reading these stories. Found, “Well, he’s not hot, but he still has to get up in the morning.” And women are worse off than men, like “the skin under their eyes looks like dough that has grown and The bottom is punched. “
In the early 2000s, there was something particularly deadly for gay men in their early 30s. It seems that many popular cultures have become popular, that at the age of 30 there was a sharp decline in the price of someone in the meat market. There was a kind of moral force in youth and beauty. This theme as “Over Boy” sometimes successfully dominates the stories of “Sex with Strangers”, which is keenly familiar with the limitations of such a philosophy of the world. But more often than not, Lowenthal’s eyes delight in the physical flaws of his characters.
Then there is the back-story issue. These stories are perfect Bloated With flashback. Some of the stories are a little longer than the undeveloped vignettes floating in the oceans of the backfill. Lovental spends pages setting up the opening positions of his stories. It almost feels like an epic until you realize that everything the reader has learned is known by all the characters. It has a hollow thrill of close-up magic, and is disappointing because Lovantel is clearly a skilled and sensitive storyteller. A wish he used to develop his struggles to clean his throat and establish them instead of developing his gifts.