It’s a literary conundrum for the modern era: how to write about boredom in a way that is not itself boring. In his novel Bad Sex, Clancy Martin plunges the reader into the mind of a woman who’s done it all before and will probably do it all again. The result, though not entirely compelling, is worth reading for its intimacy and honesty. Brett, a writer on the brink of middle age, lives in Mexico City with her husband, a businessman. Her life is as ordered as it’s ever been. She’s not drinking anymore, but she’s not writing much, either. Then a one-night stand with Eduard, her husband’s banker, develops into an affair, and the lies pile up as she travels throughout Central America to be with him. She starts drinking again. Brett’s asides let us know that this is familiar territory. She is experienced at, among other things, hiding her drinking from a lover. “A secret drinker,” she tells us, “looks for restaurants with bars next door: if necessary, she can exit out the back, take a quick drink at the neighboring place, and come back again.” The novel is shrouded in the fog that melancholy puts between the self and the world. Whether she’s at a club, drinking alone, or confronted with the end of her marriage, Brett remains numb. Numbness for the narrator often turns into flatness for the reader. There’s not a lot of motion here, and the vignettes of drinking and rough sex quickly grow repetitive. But Martin—author of a previous novel and memoir—has written a slim, slight, bleakly beautiful novel of resignation.
Bad Sex by Clancy Martin. Published in September by Tyrant Books. 182 pages. $23.00
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