THE PORNO GIRL: And Other Stories

Merin Wexler, Author . St. Martin's $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-312-31057-8

Women strive to understand their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters and wives in the 11 stories in this crisp debut collection. Though Wexler treads familiar territory, she manages to stake out small plots of new ground with her quirky storytelling and unexpected insights. The protagonist of the title story makes regular visits to a porn shop with her newborn infant strapped to her chest, because the excursions titillate with the promise of making her feel alive again, her "body limber and warm." In "The Nanny Trap," a woman conceives a second child for the sole purpose of making her nanny stay with the family—with disturbing consequences. Frances, the suddenly single mother of a young son in "Don Giovanni in the Tub," feels "terribly stunted, inadequate to the tasks of being his mother," an anxiety echoed by many of the characters in the collection. Several stories negotiate the perilous terrain of illicit love and lust, including one of the strongest, "Waiting to Discover Electricity," in which a college-aged babysitter has an affair with her charges' father in order to connect with his wife. Her inexperienced fumbling toward adulthood rings true, from her romantic view of her "snake charmer" lover to her adulation of his hip wife. A few entries are too blunt and heavy-handed, but Wexler's talent for startling observations—one mother, reflecting on her relationship to her son, declares herself "stunned that she had carried inside her the body of a man—miniature but anatomically complete, including a penis"—more than redeems the collection. Sharp, wry and darkly funny, these stories show off a seductive, talented new voice. Agent, Henry Dunow. (June)

Forecast:Wexler's debut belongs to a now-substantial subgenre of fiction describing the dilemmas of postfeminist urban domesticity. The misleading title and jacket may deflect readers, who will expect something seamier, but fans of Allison Pearson and Helen Simpson can be profitably steered toward the collection. 3-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 05/26/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4668-6654-6
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