Sex and Death in the American Novel

BOOK: Sex and Death in the American Novel
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Praise for
Sex and Death in the American Novel:

Sex & Death
is erotic literature that's as much about the thrill of reading and writing as the titillation of sex. In Sarah Martinez, we finally have a female author who's man enough to explore the expansive dimensions of women's fantasies and who gives us a strong, outspoken heroine who has no truck with submission. She dares to blow the top off of the conventional black and white box of boy/girl, liberating us with sexy, sensual, intelligent confetti.

Jennifer D. Munro, Author of
The Erotica Writer's Husband

“Hear ye, women! Read this gem of a novel!”
Sex and Death in the American Novel
, about a writer coming to terms with her genre, her gender, and her gender roles, is “cutting edge.” Don't expect sweet, for sweet it ain't. Expect a riveting, moving, sexy ride—one you'll grow from, one you'll remember. You're going to love this story.

Susan Wingate, Award-winning, Amazon Bestselling author of
and the
Bobby's Diner

In a world full of hungry writers, Vivianna is the hungriest and she's hungry for everything—Love, sex, friendship, lust, obsession, writing. She lives what she writes and she lives it hard.

Welcome to
Sex and Death in the American Novel
—cool, direct, sure. Sarah Martinez hits her stride here as she gives you scene after scene in an erotic bazaar that swamps your senses—sweat, perfume, the scent of sex, the odor of books, the aroma of ink. No fear in this novel—gay, straight, curious—an entire generation sweeps across the stage experimenting with life. Take what you can get, get what you can take—this is a fast moving novel loaded with a frighteningly gorgeous and sometimes bastardly cast of characters. Buy it. Read it. Wish you were in it.

Jack Remick is the author of several novels and short story collections including
Terminal Weird

Copyright 2012 Sarah Martinez

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

Inquiries about additional permissions should be directed to:
[email protected]


Edited by Katie Flanagan

Designed by Loretta Matson

Cover image ©2012 Jeff Thrower, used under license from

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.

ISBN 978-1-935961-65-9

For further information regarding permissions,
please contact
[email protected]

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012915094

For David


For Vivi

Our great novelists, though experts on indignity and assault, on loneliness and terror, tend to avoid treating the passionate encounter of a man and a woman, which we expect at the center of a novel.

—Leslie A. Fiedler,
Love and Death in the American Novel



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7


Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10


Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17



The performance can be a shambling and ingratiating one as much as a cocksure and intimidating one, but performance it is: a pity for these anonymous devoted readers who press affectionately toward a blind man are his lovers, who have accepted into themselves his most intimate and earnest thrusts.

—John Updike,
On Meeting Writers

Chapter 1

We all know the first line is the most important: it sets the tone, tells you what this story will be about. Call me Vivianna. Would Melville approve? How about copying straight from Heller: It was love at first sight. We all remember Lolita; how would Nabokov do it?

What if I just come out and say it. This book is the answer to the notion that women ought to fear asking for what they want the most. Whether it's time alone to write, demanding for and getting respect, or a patient hand under which to soften up and eventually get off. You know what's even worse: we know we won't get it anyway. Fuck virtue. This document serves as my rejection of the notion that I am doomed—by virtue of my gender—to a life of boredom, inanity, and servitude.

An old man in Arizona has over seventy wives. If a woman ever said that one man wasn't enough for her, you know what they would say about her? I could spend at least ten minutes on the list. Making up lists is a great writing exercise by the way. I learned that from my father. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for his novel
Taking Ivy Down
. Dear old Dad.

Let's start with two men—just for argument's sake. What would that look like? Feel like? Smell like? Taste like?

Two men…two sets of lips, two pairs of eyes moving over my face, my breasts, my hips, resting further down. Two sets of hands, warm and strong, only me, naked and trembling with anticipation between them. Two rustling, soft heads of hair; two minds, two hearts…spirits, two of everything. The energy between them flows through me. Associations come freely when I am in this state; rain, dark swirling skies, and rich red blood flowing from both their hammered faces, they fought…for me. Now we are all together, and
they've forgiven each other, their bruised lips crush against mine, against my face, against every part of me until finally they come together. As I tip my head back, taking in the scents of their bodies, metallic and musky, sweaty and raw, they reach for each other. The one who lost the battle—the blonde with red rimmed blue eyes—faces me, his arms around mine, his hands reaching further to the one behind me who, underneath the scents of exertion, smells like leather and tangy soap. Their faces come together over my shoulder, first testing, pulling back, then together again. They kiss, more roughly than they would kiss me, with hands moving up to run through each other's hair, pulling on it, and both pairs of hands move over my arms and shoulders. Sounds of stubble across skin, scraping, hands over tingling flesh, mine, a wince, low voices, soft wispy sounds echo in the silence of this old warehouse…no wait, make that a boxing ring, we're on the dirty white mat in the center of the ring.

The one behind me—the winner—leans forward, grazing the skin behind my ear with his teeth, the sticky wet skin of his torso connecting all the way along my back. He pushes me down, working himself deeper in me, opening me wide. His hands wrap around both sides of my hips. He groans and the sound sends a thrill though me. The one in front works his way in from below. I am sandwiched between the two of them, and take the loser's face in my hands, stroking the area near his swollen eye, running the tip of my nose over his lips, his cheek; I gently kiss his forehead, pulling back and tasting coppery blood.

My mother's words intruded. “Vivianna, are you paying attention?”

“No, I'm writing,” I said. “We are on our way to a Writers’ Conference aren't we?”

“No need to—” she began.

“Still writing smut, Slug?” my brother Tristan said. He wore a blue bandana over long brown hair and white thermal underwear, about the only thing I'd seen him wear for as long as I could remember.

“I swear you do this just to rankle me,” my mother said, taking a long drag on a skinny brown cigarette and flicking the ash out the cracked window.

“Dad's dead, Slug, you can stop trying to piss him off,” Tristan said with affection and humor in his voice. Technically he was my half-brother, but you would never know it by the way my mother fawned over him.

“The reason I am working day and night on this thing, even in the car, when I'd really rather be tearing up great works of literature with the two of you, wouldn't happen to be because I have a book due in six months.” I closed my notebook with a sigh, my mother's copy of
The Book of Daniel
beneath it.

“Why do you still call her Slug, Tristan? Don't tell me you two are still referencing that awful Ayn Rand book.”

“He is,” I said, holding his gaze. “And also reminding me how I used to fall apart when he tortured me with defenseless creatures in the garden.”

Tristan waved his hands in the air and said in a high-pitched voice, “No
, not the snail with no shell!”

“Are you done?” I said, turning to face him. “Has it occurred to you that I like writing this? I get paid, better than you ever will.” I held my finger toward his face; he swatted it away and stuck his middle finger in the air. “And it's the best way to tune out this depressingly boring discussion the two of you have been having since we left Spokane.”

“How long are you going to nurse this hostility?” my mother asked.

I faced her and raised my eyebrows. “You mean toward Dad or toward this lame-assed academic mindset? You guys could suck the life out of any book with the way you talk. If it is on the bestseller list that must mean it was written by a hack, for idiots who have no understanding of what
literature is.” I gave my brother a stern look. “You used to love all books. Fun books, dirty books, history books. Since that MFA all you care about are these big clunky ones with like fifty pages worth of description before anything even happens.”

He ran his open hand over his face and rolled his eyes. “Philistine.”

My mother chuckled and stuck her tongue out the side of her cheek.

I continued. “Now it's all
, and
, and
, and
. Please, give me something with which to blow my head off.”

Normally I wouldn't have gotten myself stuck in a car with two academics intent on boring the shit out of me, but I wanted to see my brother meet his most recent literary hero and pull out of his latest slump. It was surreal the way my brother's attention lately was focused entirely on this dork Jasper Caldwell, who as far as I could tell was nothing more than a glorified misanthrope. Part of his “process” was to keep himself sealed off from the rest of the world, wearing earplugs while he worked a minimum of eight hours a day. Was this guy the reason Tristan had turned into such a monk? Or was it the other way around? Maybe that was why Tristan liked this guy, because he modeled the way my brother lived, increasingly cloistered and more miserable every time I saw him. He hardly left his room. It wasn't that long ago that he was never home; he was either playing music, running the streets, or chasing girls.

BOOK: Sex and Death in the American Novel
8.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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