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My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Upby Stephen Elliott
Yes, this collection of stories is sexually explicit. Yet, what I actually find most stunning and stimulating about it is Elliott's ability to bravely suffuse his writing with a raw and tender emotional explicitness. I believe humanity to be at a dangerous crossroads; it may sound strange, but Elliott's stark honesty gives me a daring seed of hope for the human animal.
Synopses & Reviews
This blistering new collection from literary rising star Stephen Elliott demonstrates once again why his books have been praised as "graceful," "soaring," and "fearless." As with all of Elliott's work, these stories have the raw ring of truth filtered through the author's downbeat-poetic sensibility.
My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up follows the narrator on a dizzying ride through past and present, from a group home for troubled adolescents in Chicago where he loses his virginity to shooting galleries and homeless encampments in San Francisco where he searches for deeper and darker thrills. In "Other Desires," a flood of unsettling memories backgrounds the narrator's involvement with a loose-knit family of lost souls. "Tears" explores the disturbing complexities of an S/M Internet hook-up. Several of the stories feature the enigmatic Eden, the narrator's polyamorous mistress. With My Girlfriend, Elliott confirms his status as a major young writer of a kind of literary fiction that recalls the work of Genet and Bukowski.
"Elliott's previous episodic novel, Happy Baby, was about a masochistic man, Theo, who was coming to terms with being an abused juvenile. The narrator of these 11 linked tales, usually called Theo, practices 'consensual sadomasochism.' Over the course of the book, he goes from being down and out in Amsterdam to eventual success as a West Coast writer whose 'current friends went to Ivy League schools.' In 'Other Desires,' Theo gets a black eye from Ambellina, who also smothers him by sitting on his face and puts a ball gag in his mouth while they watch Casablanca. In 'I'll Love You Back,' Theo's writes with the butt plug that girlfriend Eden has ordered him to wear firmly in place. Between Theo's granular descriptions of being hurt and the generic, robo-dom quality of the gals who hurt him (distinguished mostly by thickness of thigh and color of hair), the stories all tend to blur together in a sexual vacuum, with funny descriptions of Theo's improving quotidian in between — which is the point: torture, repetition and teasing are the focus of Theo's life and his work. As Theo explains in 'Other Desires': 'We've never had sex. We won't have sex.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] profound, distilled work of art…drink it and be transformed." Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
"Stephen Elliott knocks my fishnet stockings off." Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife
"An amazing and beautiful and powerful book....I can't think of a more courageous writer than Stephen Elliott. At the center of these stories of his degradations is, I think, a rare kind of love. He is beaten until he weeps so that he can be held while he cries. But this book isn't all pathos and blood and sex — it's also very funny. So Stephen Elliott can do it all — he can freak you out and he can make you laugh. What more could you want from a writer?" Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!
"Stephen Elliott describes the sexual and emotional terrain in a voice that is at once feral and sweet, straightforward and complicated, devastating and funny as hell." San Francisco Bay Guardian
"There's an emotional courage to these stories, and a sense of urgency, that are thrilling to encounter. Elliott writes as if his life depended on each sentence." The Believer
"[Elliott is] a master of muted prose....He conveys unmet yearning with a poignancy that is universal." San Francisco Chronicle
What Our Readers Are Saying
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