cover image Getting It on: A Condom Reader

Getting It on: A Condom Reader

John Irving, Elizabeth Benedict, Anne Rice. Soho Press, $24 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-56947-145-6

Lubed for publication during National Condom Week, this anthology of short fiction, comic essays and verse offers a variety of flavors and textures. Anne Rice, John Irving, Martin Amis and other luminaries are represented by excerpts from novels and collections. Most of the 29 reprints and originals are short, three or four pages long, and they range from the banal and sophomoric (e.g., Cathryn Alpert's ""Condomology in Twelve Easy Lessons"") to the surpassingly lovely (e.g., April Lindner's poem, ""Condom""), hilarious (e.g., William Feustner's ""Flush""), or illuminating (e.g., ""Campmates"" from Armistead Maupin's Babycakes). Condoms are at least mentioned in every entry: sometimes they are incidental and sometimes central. Most often they are utilized for their metaphorical force in tales of love forestalled or diminished by memory and doubt. Many pieces involve same-gender lovers, and tenderly, too, in stories and verse full of humor and mourning. There are some longer pieces: in T. Coraghessan Boyle's ""Modern Love,"" the volume's opener, a hygiene fanatic makes her lover wear a full-body condom pending the results of a physical. Nathan Englander writes of a Hasidic Jew whose rabbi directs him to a prostitute in order to save his marriage from ""unbearable urges""; piously refusing a condom, he contracts a venereal disease. AIDS comes up with some frequency, of course, along with the longing for a freer sexual era. The awkwardness of manipulating rubbers is a recurrent source of amusement. The mix of classic excerpts and decidedly '90s sensibilities helps to give this sexy sampler a historical and psychological range responsible to the current sexual climate while frankly celebrating the condom's place in literature. (Feb.)