Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sadness of Sex by Barry Yourgrau

I use to volunteer at the bookstore in the main branch of the San Francisco public library. Doing so afforded me first crack at the donated books when they arrived. Upon discovering this one, I was immediately intrigued by the title. After purchasing it for a dollar I promptly misplaced it until a just a few weeks ago when I came across it while cleaning.

The Sadness of Sex is collection of what I suppose could be called short stories- well that’s what Yourgrau calls them anyway. Narratives, essays or even poetry would seem to me like better choices in describing his work. Thematically, as one might expect, the thrust of this volume is about human emotions and relations and sexuality. But, Yourgrau plumbs the more primal, quirky and generally esoteric aspects of love, where the heartwarming meets the ridiculous and the macabre. The approach serves him well as this is actually much more fertile ground than the purely romantic or tragic which have been so exhausted as to become almost tired clichĂ©. In a sense, the feeling many of these pieces exude is truer to the actual experience- something ubiquitous yet strange; at once felt by all yet beyond our common everyday language.

Riddled with dream-like surrealism and often lacking discrete beginnings or ends these loosely assembled works are full of enigmatic symbolism. Much of which can be only tangentially grasped by the rationally conscious mind- that is, partially decoded, but rarely fully understood. At the deeper, emotive, sub-conscious stratum, however, they ring home with a stunningly urgent clarity that often leaps from the pages. Awash with bizarre, poignant, amusing, and frequently absurd imagery; this volume makes for a highly enjoyable if, at times, bewildering read. Shape-shifting horses, A naked women who eats rabbits alive, a hospital “for victims of love,” the romancing of cannibals, and young boys catching and murdering the moon- Lord of the Flies-style; are but a few of the dynamic and insanely memorable images Yourgrau coaxes from his(our) subconscious.

The book is divided into several general sections that are named for specific pieces, each with slightly varying general themes. The portion entitled Snowfall might be my favorite. Though certainly not one of the more “out there” sections of the book, the pieces, which are about love lost, are sentimental and strangely comforting. The prose is beautiful and there is a familiar almost meditative quality to them.

Finally having had a chance to peruse it I can say that Yourgrau writes with an utterly unique voice and it’s been a pleasure finally being able to read him.

No comments: