Book Review: Readings

Julianna Baggott

Readings

Which Brings Me to You

by Julianna Baggott and Steve Almond

Algonquin Books, 304 pp., $22.95

It's an interesting conceit: Girl spots boy at wedding, recognizes him as one of her kind (the lonely, the alienated, the type that invariably ends up naked with another wedding guest before the rice is thrown), makes her move while giving a fake name (Jane), and ends up naked with him in the coatroom before the rice is thrown. But wait! The coupling is halted by a unique case of coitus interruptus: Our hero, going by the nom de sexe of Ted Nugent, is cock-blocked by his own conscience! The Nuge, it seems, suspects that this is the Real Deal, so why spoil it with a fling cushioned by other people's coats? He proposes, instead, that they postpone consummation in favor of confessing each other's crimes against relationships. That way, he reckons, all the closet skeletons are set free (or, if not set free, then at least aired out a bit). Jane agrees, they part ways, and the epistles (and confessions) start flying. At times reading like better-than-average erotica, these written exchanges are brutally honest and reveal the human reluctance to let oneself off too easily when emotional damage has been done. The reader is forced to ask: Am I capable of being this honest? Would I really want my partner to know this? Almond and Baggott, however, tend to lapse into overly purple prose a bit too often, and it's here that the conceit collapses a bit: It's clear that these two writers – rather than their characters – are trying to impress each other. Nonetheless, Which Brings Me to You is an interesting and sexy inversion of the epistolary tradition, but the sex is tempered with the narratives of two people turning the mirror on themselves, often revealing very ugly behavior. It is this hard work of confession and acceptance that uncovers the fact that honesty is often sexier than bravado, and confession is a surprising form of foreplay.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Which Brings Me to You, Algonquin, Julianna Baggot, Steve Almond

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