cover image The Way It Works with Women

The Way It Works with Women

Louis Calaferte. Northwestern University Press, $33 (143pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-6033-0

Fragments of raunchy bedroom talk comprise this sexy, if awkwardly translated French work (first published in France in 1992 as La mecanique des femmes). The constantly shifting voices are mostly young women--whores, women of the street, transients--coming on to a perhaps older man of the world who occasionally asks questions (""You never think about death?"") but mostly acts as the passive sounding board for their needy pleas to arouse desire at all cost. ""You can't imagine how I'm longing to have you in my mouth,"" reads one (atypically) mild passage, while another woman cries out rapturously, ""Fuck me! Fuck me! My husband is hopeless!"" The male narrator's bland observations (""The swollen breasts that with a mechanical gesture she lifts out of her brassiere"") are redeemed from dirty-old-man prurience by the touching details he reveals through the women's desperately heartfelt confessions of childhood miseries, abuse at the hands of boyfriends and husbands and vanishing dreams of the future. Their sex is their power, and though the women beg to be called depraved, Calaferte insists that they are something else. As one says, ""I'm the first woman in the world. I'm Eve."" (Sept.)