cover image The Sadness of Sex

The Sadness of Sex

Barry Yourgrau. Delta, $11.95 (255pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31376-6

A group of women remove their private parts, wash them, and hang the pelts on trees to dry. A woman masquerading as a lioness devours her lover. A man carves out his wounded heart, buries it and becomes all the more successful with women. The figure of a clothed girl trapped for centuries in an icy glacier causes the ever soulful male narrator to relinquish his hopes for his own romantic future. In performance artist Yourgrau's new collection, such odd, luminous visions pulse with sadness and humor, loss, irony and desire. The 90 brief but achingly substantial stories most often include a lovelorn male voyeur whose surreal encounters with otherworldly women highlight his suspicion that his is the weaker sex, given to pleading, victimization and endless unnameable yearnings. Death figures again and again, but in the hands of the author of Wearing Dad's Head and A Man Jumps Out of an Airplane, mortality is marked not by finality but by transformation, so that the reckless impulses of the living give way to a somnolent and receptive grace. A drowned man, ministered by mermaids, muses, ``They laugh, and push me and pet me, in ignorance of my condition, my sad, human flaw.'' These are deeply convincing, uncommonly imaginative fictions, told with unparalled style and elegant emotion. (Mar.)