cover image Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell

Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell

Katherine Angel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-2804-06

In this thinking woman’s meditation on sexual desire, Angel challenges readers to consider whether feminism has actually liberated women to lay claim to their own desire and satisfaction. Her intellectual touchstones include Susan Sontag, Virginia Woolf, and Michel Foucault, and Angel sprinkles quotations from their writings throughout the book to emphasize and illuminate her own ideas. The narrative—ghostly and poetic at its strongest—charts the course of Angel’s affair with an unnamed man. Her passion for him erupts onto the page, often in the form of a sentence or two separated from its neighbors by copious white space, an unconventional style that mirrors the dynamic nature of sexual tension and release. Meanwhile, she contemplates a variety of issues associated with her physical desire: she admits to an interest in pornography, but acknowledges that her definition of it might differ from someone else’s; she asks her lover to tie her up, but he only does so later when she hasn’t asked; flashing back to another affair in the book’s most moving section, she describes terminating an unplanned pregnancy. In the end, Angel doesn’t offer up any pat answers to her questions because she knows that none exist; desire, like liberation, is individual—not universal. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency. (June 4)