Synopses & Reviews
It's all about you. Your apartment. Your job. Your dates. Your sex life. Your time off. Your exercise. Your food. Your music. Your future. What are you waiting for? Who will you love? What is it, really, that you want?
The life of a single woman in the twenty-first century is full of new connections, new sex, new love, and new loss. It's about letting the laundry pile up, sipping strong drinks with near strangers, and dishing to girlfriends on those foggy-headed, flushed morning-afters. But it isn't all heightened connections and steamy dates. The single girl is no stranger to the scramble for a Saturday night plan, the oh-so-promising guy who took her number at a party and then -- poof! -- disappeared, the ever narrowing circle of unattached girlfriends....
In Sex and Sensibility twenty-nine of today's most acclaimed -- and often bestselling -- female authors write about the push-pull between independence and vulnerability, fearlessness and self-doubt that defines single life. Jennifer Weiner, Pam Houston, Laurie Notaro, Amy Sohn, and Julianna Baggott are just a few of the real-life heroines whose stories about long-distance dating, twenty-something divorce, online crushes, and thrilling one-night stands make up this funny, frank, and unabashedly erotic celebration of singlehood and sisterhood -- a quintessential handbook for today's independent woman.
"A collection of short essays sets out to reveal the truth about sex and the modern single girl via tales of love lost, sought and found. And while the importance of this exploration is open to debate in a world saturated with Cosmo confessions and Sex and the City reruns, and the stories assembled here do little to assert their necessity, they're generally quite enjoyable. Elissa Schappell's 'Confessions of a Teenage Cocktease' is a sparkling, incisive account of finding true love almost by mistake, and Erika Krouse's 'Penelope' is a funny-sad look at a humiliating breakup. With only a few exceptions, the essays focus on heterosexual sex, and almost every scene is clearly situated in an urban environment (often New York). Only one story touches on the matter of sexual assault, nor is there much that's titillating. The similarity of the authors' voices and experiences combined with the pieces' brevity and earnest feminism-lite tone prevent the content from being truly provocative or groundbreaking. Readers will find moments of truth, comedy and poignant recognition in this compendium, but they won't find much that's challenging. Agent, Jenny Bent. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Twnety-nine of today's most acclaimed female authors share their unique experiences of single life in this provocative collection of original essays.
About the Author
Genevieve Field is a senior editor at Glamour. She is the cofounder of the Web magazine Nerve (nerve.com), the editor of Nerve: The New Nude, and the coeditor of Nerve: Literate Smut and Full Frontal Fiction.
Reading Group Guide
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion of Sex and Sensibility. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Questions and Topics for Discussion
Q. In the Introduction, we learn that today approximately 32% of U.S. women between the ages of 20 and 44 have never been married, as opposed to 19% of women in that same age group in 1970. Does this statistic surprise you? What are some of the reasons for this rise in the number of single women?
Q. In Confessions of a Teenage Cocktease, Elissa Schappell passes on advice given to her from her grandmother: Be a good date, not a great date, a good date." What were some of the ramifications of being too "great" a date?
Q. Pam Houston touches on the theme of female competition in her essay, In the Bowl of Lights that is La Paz, where she and a female co-worker compete over a handsome Italian architect. When he shows interest in her, she admits it "never occurred to her say no." Why do you think this is? Daisy Garnett, in her piece Sexual Healing, relates a similar theme..."like many women, when it came to sex, I was so grateful to be given the opportunity to say yes, I never learned how to say 'no.'" Why do you think it is hard for some women to say no to men's advances?
Q. In Sexual Healing, Daisy Garnett is pleased with herself after the encounter with the amorous masseur and wonders, "Is this what it feels like to be a man?" Do you think this is a popular fantasy for women--to have sex like a man? Why would that be empowering? Why do you think her experience with the masseur makes her less interested in sleeping around and more interested in, as she puts it, "permanence?"
Q. Amy Sohn is known for her frank descriptions of sex in her magazine and newspaper columns and her novel, Run, Catch, Kiss. In Travel Love, she pines for the more romantic customs of the Victorian era. Do you think many women do? What are the pros? The cons?
Q. Movies can be very influential on how we view the world, especially when it comes to romance. Amy Sohn leans over to unlock her date's car door a la Kyra Sedgwick in Singles. Julianna Baggot envisions the typical tearful airport goodbye with her French boyfriend. Is this influence helpful or harmful?
Q. In her essay How to be Alone, Lisa Gabriele suggests that her father's leaving when she was young affects her current relationships with men. Do you think this is true of everyone? How important are our relationships to our family with regards to our relationships with others?
Q. In How to be Alone, Lisa Gabriele pines for her long-distance football player boyfriend only to visit him and discover "being with Mark is not as much fun as missing him." Have you ever been in a relationship or dating situation where the anticipation was better than the reality?
Q. In Herland, Revisted, Meghan Daum compares and contrasts life as a young single woman in New York City and Lincoln, Nebraska. Were you surprised by the census numbers Daum provided and the male/female ratio in some U.S. cities? Daum uses Charlotte Perkins Gilman's feminist classic, Herland, as a touchstone for this piece. Discuss the concepts of 'Herland' and 'Ourland.' Which kind of 'land' do you live in?
Q. Merrill Markoe reveals in her essay, Medusa's Sister, that after having sex for the first time, she felt like she knew less about the sex act than when she was a virgin. Do you think this is common in young women? Were you surprised when Markoe later revealed she was raped?
Q. In Do You Take this Woman, writing partners Em and Lo demonstrate how their friendship is similar to a marriage. Discuss the ways that a friendship resembles a marriage. Are men like this with their close friends?
Q. In The Feast of San Gennaro, Jennifer Weiner brings up a much-discussed topic--what exactly denotes sex--is it the physical act or a deeper intimacy? What constitutes cheating?
Q. With bountiful Internet dating sites and columns like Missed Connections, how does modern media and technology affecting modern-day dating?
Q. In One Way to Stay Warm in the Winter, Thisbe Nissen tells of an unorthodox roommate situation, with another woman and a man. Is their situation attractive to you? Why or why not? When you first heard their proposed plan for living together, what did you anticipate would happen?
Q. Jennifer Baumgardner's Whereya Headed references Judy Blume's novel, Forever. Which books or films from your youth had an influence on how you viewed dating and relationships?
Q. Laurie Notaro relates the agony of ending a dating dry spell only to realize she hasn't "tended the garden" in Cut and Shave. Do you have any embarrassing dating stories?
Q. Jane Austen's novels discussed marriage and romantic opportunities with a slightly jaundiced eye because, as Darcy Cosper points out in her essay, Everything I Know About Dating I learned from Jane Austen, in Austen's day marriage "was merely the only course open to (a woman) at that moment in history." What are some of the changes in dating since Austen's day? What would Jane Austen think of today's modern single woman?