Lisa Taddeo

Modern dating and female sex lives

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Lisa Taddeo
Lisa Taddeo

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Three Women and our most eloquent and faithful chronicler of human desire ( Esquire), Lisa Taddeo’s Ghost Lover is a collection of nine riveting, fearless and ferocious short stories which brings to life the fever of obsession, the blindness of life and the mania of grief, exploring dating, aging, and friendship.

Behind anonymous screens, an army of cool and beautiful girls manage the dating service Ghost Lover, a forwarding system for text messages that promise to spare you the anguish of trying to stay composed while communicating with your crush. A disaffected female protagonist describes the act of sex with detachment. In one scene, a woman masturbates to a fantasy of her ex-boyfriend having sex with his new girlfriend, and then even after climaxing contemplates “ suicide in the boring, lonely way of unfulfilled selfish women”.

At a star-studded political fundraiser in a Los Angeles mansion, a trio of women competes to win the heart of the slick guest of honour. In a tense hospital waiting room, an inseparable pair of hard-partying friends crash into life’s responsibilities, but the magic of their glory days comes alive again at the moment they are least expecting it.

Taddeo’s arresting prose continues to thrill her legions of fans, including the baffling, words such as the man with “penis hands” or the woman with a “shifty labia. Clitorises are in for a particularly bizarre time. “You envisioned your clitoris lying on cement, sped over flickeringly by bicycle wheels It would regenerate itself and look alive again, but its soul was smashed, bleeding tiny ruby seahorse tears on the sidewalks”. In another  “she felt like she had eighteen clitorises and all of them couldn’t drive.”

In Ghost Stories, the female characters seem to have internalised the misogyny. Taddeo describes “ a skinny girl in a leather skirt talked to a girl in a beautiful backless sundress. They might have woken up in filthy apartments. Perhaps their mothers did not believe in them. Perhaps their fathers had just died. Perhaps there had been a quiet abortion down on Maiden Lane”. Women who have started a dating service, which writes electronic correspondence on behalf of female clients to their crushes or “Forty-Two” which follows a single woman in her forties dating in a New York scene that obsesses on youth but that story and the collection as a whole are drenched in ennui.” Tonight there was a wedding in goddammed Brooklyn…. In New York, the things you hate are the things you do.”

“Maid Marian” in which a woman yearns for her lover because the protagonist wants something- or someone, which makes a striking contrast to the monotonal nihilism of the other stories. “The reason none of the men stuck was that Noni had never come unstuck from Harry… She might take it even further, in her most transparent hours and admit that the reason that she was not a famous documentarian was because of Harry, too… Instead of focusing on her work, instead of giving all of herself to her vision, she lived in the shadows of the past.”

Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo, Avid Reader Press $27, Bloomsbury £16.99, 240 pages.