Geoffrey Wildanger told me that St-Just wrote a friend that happiness is a new idea in Europe at the dawn of the French revolution, for until that moment only the very highest social class—basically the aristocracy—had access to the materials to make itself happy with, and yet when we think of the nobility it’s not of their happiness as much as their selfishness—Marie Antoinette eating cake in Marc Jacobs pastels—and then comes the blade anyhow. Happiness is still something heightened, structured, or conditioned by death. In Daphne Gottlieb’s story “Adult.books.com,” the narrator, Ms. S., wishes her correspondent “every happiness this new year” in the first sentence, and then launches into a lengthy story of New Year’s sex set to a raucous if melodic mixtape of music from another generation—her own—she’s not young, but her imagination responds to the lure of a good sex ad and something about this one convinces her that, even though she’s lazy and she’s cold, she should have sex in public with him because that’s his thing.
We’re good Gottlieb readers and predict that this is one new year that is going to start with a bang, er, ahem, but one that will also disclose an episode of Chekhovian melancholy and “if only-“ness. (The contingent–that quintessential California case,) The guy is blue—so that’s attractive—Ms. S. wonders if he would be invisible in her blue sheets, if she got to stay at home, but it is his huge member (ten and a half inches) that makes knees turn to jelly, gets her in the bus, where she bids the driver, North Beach please.
What part of North Beach you want, lady?
The adult bookstore across from City Lights. We’ve all been there—maybe not to that exactly location but to the stage of sexual curiosity and interest that remains heightened even when you get a text every half hour that say, I’m running late. But I leave it to Daphne Gottlieb to leave us with an acid drawn etching of the mind of the woman in question. To kill time—and to stay wet—she lifts her skirt, pulls up her top, gets out the cell phone—to keep him turned on. Gottlieb is merciless with her narrator, and yet such an approach likewise serves to show us something of the hidden glory beneath the pathos of this late night errand. If there is anybody who knows what is so not a 10 inch cock it is Daphne Gottlieb’s narrator. She is a democrat in the old sense, an adventurer, a woman of heart and mind like the old Joni Mitchell song. The night is lustrous; black blocks of black and white combine at one’s feet to produce color from mere adjacency. Is she sorry she left the comforts of home for this gross approximation of romantic love? You tell me, but you know I don’t think so. I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but everyone knows Chekhov’s advice to the dramatist—that if you bring a gun on stage in act one, it has to go limp in act three.