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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Intercourse by Robert Olen Butler 
17th-Jan-2009 08:50 pm
Butler, Robert Olen. Intercourse: Stories. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008.
          Summary: A series of brief, paired monologues a people in moments of sexual intimacy. Includes couples historial, mythological, and imagined...from Adam and Eve to Santa Claus and one of his elves (not Mrs. Claus).
          Comments: One of Robert Olen Butler's previous short story collections Severance explored the minds of people at the moment of death (by beheading...I kid not). Intercourse, by comparison, explores the minds of people at the moment of a "little death," as it were. None are particularly erotic, a few are romantic, more than a few are ridiculous, and many push the boundaries of questionable taste...and then cross them repeatedly (particularly when they involve political figures such as Hitler, the Clintons, and the Bushes). Some are decidedly creepy: "she is slick and untouched as a fish and I would cling to a horse who's been ridden..." All of the monologues are written in poorly punctuated, stream of consciousness prose poetry, and those which involve writers--of which there are many--aim to emulate the style of the writer in question. Needless to say, I preferred the rare romantically intense ones. The couples, both hetero- and homosexual, are all arranged in ostensible chronological order, but once you get to the 20th century, they're virtually all American. Anyway, this is definitely one of those books which you purchase not deliberately but rather at random off the remainder pile at the local bookstore (which whaddaya know, is exactly what I did). It's surprisingly good, though--so well done, in fact, that you forget how gimmicky and self-conscious Butler's project is in the first place.
          Rating: 7/10 - This is literature by a Pulitzer Prize winner, not porn. It's not even particularly erotic, but that might just be my own opinion. What it is...is very well-written and smart.
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