There are some graphic sex scenes in Arlene Heyman's new collection of short stories, "Scary Old Sex. Viagra may be necessary, certain positions can aggravate arthritis, death is in the background or foreground of several stories. A remarried woman compares her husband with her late husband. A woman watches her husband decline as he's treated for leukemia. A year-old woman watches her year-old mother lose her faculties. One of the stories is dedicated to the late writer Bernard Malamud and draws on the affair Heyman had with him when she was a student and he was middle-aged and married.
The affair lasted a couple of years. Their friendship lasted until his death. She's a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who lives and works in Manhattan.
I'm going to ask you to start with a reading, and this is from one of the stories in your book. And there's a couple who are on a cruise. They've each been married before. They each have children and grandchildren through previous marriages. They haven't had any children together. And they haven't had any sex since the cruise started. Would you do the reading? Reading They have not made love since they started the cruise a week ago and she was too rushed and tense the week before getting ready.
Not that frequency matters, so long as they care about each other, and making love helps them care about each other. Although, since they started having to schedule it in, it has become a little like brushing and flossing - something almost hygienic, good for you.
Yet, there is passion in it, too. It erupts right out of the schedule. You do it with regularity to show you are a human being, that you are alive and civilized and can still become ecstatic. You can still do it. You still want to do it. And it is, after all, a sign of love. And the repetition of it, the making of it into a weekly habit, like phoning their children and speaking to the grandchildren, the lovemaking grafts them to one another, comingles them, despite their having no children together.
And besides, after 10 years of doing it, it is a reliable pleasure. Eleven years - it is not as though they met yesterday and are trying to figure out will this work? He is a permanent part of her, of her life. But it is the daily familiarity with her husband's body she is missing, the handling of his old, knobby flesh. Aged flesh is so fertile, grows excrescences, papules, papillomas, skin tags, moles that have to be checked yearly.
Yet, the hair thins out, underarm and pubic, as if the soil had changed to one that no longer supports that verdant shrubbery but instead nourishes an astonishing variety of wild mushrooms. Beautiful, if you have an eye. How old are these characters, Arlene?
I think the woman may be 65 and the man Well, one could be 70 and one 75 - I think 65 and Why did you want to write about what sex is like, what naked bodies are like when you've gotten older? That's part of life. If you're lucky you get older and then you have sex with old bodies, stuff that's terribly interesting. People don't write about that much. I'm sure they have their reasons, but I want to see everything there is to see and I'm 74, so I want to see.
Do you think more older men have written about sex than older women? And I think a lot of those books by older male novelists, the person who they are in love with is often a younger woman, so they're often describing sex with a much younger and beautiful woman. Old men - I think it is true that some writers - male writers - have written old women off.
You have a person in front of you that has a whole life. And to me that's very interesting. So yeah, there's a whole landscape of male writers who want women 30 years younger, but I don't think that's what the average man wants. He wants a companion, someone who knows things that he knows, who's lived through things he's lived through. And if you love someone, you don't just cut that off when a person hits What are you then?
So I think it's - comes some kind of aberration. I think maybe - I don't like to psychoanalyze writers if I don't know them That's right, if you're not their - if they're not your patient laughter. If they're not my patient I can't - but maybe it's some sense that as people become their mother's age and old women are their mother's age they become even more taboo.
Maybe only a young woman will distract them from thinking about their mothers. It's a problem in marriages. Sometimes people are very active sexually before marriage. Then they get married and immediately the interest dies out because it's as if you've become your parents, and that's a kind of taboo situation. So there may be that some of these old male writers have a taboo against being with a woman their own age.
Then they're the couple. When they were little boys, they wanted to get into that couple and separate that - be part of it, not be left out.
But it's also frightening and forbidden to be part of that couple. And maybe I'm just trying to imagine why would a year-old man want a year-old woman - a year-old woman - and eliminate - a year-old woman is a horror.
A naked - year-old woman naked is a horror. I'm thinking you're a Freudian analyst? How could you tell? If you're just joining us, my guest is Arlene Heyman, and her new collection of short stories is called "Scary Old Sex. You were lovers with him for, I think, two years while he was married.
He had two children. And then the affair ended, but your friendship continued till his death in - was it , ? I think it was ' But I'm not percent sure.
He died in his early 70s. I'd like you to do a brief reading from that story. And in the story, the female character, Leda, is a year-old undergraduate art student. And Murray, who is a very successful painter in his late 40s - Murray is married to a woman named Sigrid. They have a couple of children together, and Leda and Murray are having an affair. Reading How a man, who never changed a stroke of his painting to please anyone, managed to live a double life she didn't know. He seldom spoke about his wife, to protect her - which her?
She believed he rarely slept with Sigrid. Once he let slip that she complained about his bad breath. Leda sniffed prodigiously but detected nothing. Although Leda imagines Sigrid accepted him dutifully when he dutifully offered himself. Unasked, Murray told Leda twice that he would never leave his wife.
Her mother had died when she was 4 and Murray did not think she could survive another abandonment. Hey, my father died when I was 12, she thought to say - but didn't. She wasn't sure why. He also told her that in the 28 years since he'd met Sigrid, he'd never loved anyone as much as he loved Leda. What Murray did not tell Leda, although she had half-intuited it, was that he was afraid of her, of her dissatisfactions with herself, of her inability to organize herself, commit herself to her work in the thoroughgoing way.
He feared that he might somehow be undone if he married her - his ability to concentrate destroyed. She was hurt that he didn't ask her, although she half-believed she had never really thought about marrying him herself. He was 51 now and had liver spots on his hands and was growing ever more orderly.
Was she a groupie? But truth was he was the best company she'd ever known. Going to a gallery with him was like seeing with five eyes - her two, and his three. He was the background music of her life and the foreground music, although she knew she should be her own foreground music. Nineteen - until So in the story that you just read from, the character Leda becomes the painter's muse. He paints her nude.