I’ve Never Done This Be­fore

This col­lec­tion is a mod­ern, fem­i­nist med­i­ta­tion on re­la­tion­ships.

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - PATTY COMEAU

Claire Rudy Foster KLÉN + SÓBR Hard­cover $12.95 (98pp) 978-0-9980727-0-8

Claire Rudy Foster ru­mi­nates on the har­ried and com­pli­cated iden­ti­ties of men and women in a con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can hege­monic con­text, in her short-story col­lec­tion I’ve Never Done This Be­fore. These six tales vi­brate with vi­o­lence and alien­ation, ex­plor­ing sex­u­al­ity as a weapon, a com­mod­ity, a link, or a wedge be­tween lovers and strangers, yet Foster’s lit­er­ary ex­plo­rations re­frain from mak­ing big-pic­ture pro­nounce­ments, de­fer­ring to the in­ti­mate and im­me­di­ate.

Foster’s writ­ing is firm, grounded in a con­tem­po­rary re­al­is­tic lit­er­ary style, with each story more re­sem­bling a mean­ing­ful snap­shot than a dis­sec­tion of the sit­u­a­tion and its play­ers. Strong metaphors are put to good use, al­low­ing for mul­ti­ple read­ings and in­ten­tional am­bi­gu­ity. Al­though sex and sen­su­al­ity are cen­tral to the se­ries, eroti­cism and ro­mance gen­er­ally take a back­seat to more fac­tual, func­tional ex­pres­sions of de­sire, which of­ten goes un­quenched.

A per­sis­tent theme of ab­sence per­me­ates each tale—a woman’s hus­band has re­treated from her in fa­vor of In­ter­net porn; a man’s girl­friend at­tempts to tor­ment him with notso-sub­tle hints at in­fi­delity—and what the cor­re­spond­ing part­ners choose to fill this void is of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est. In “Run­away,” Foster writes in the sec­ond per­son, draw­ing the reader into com­plic­ity; its tenor warns against choos­ing to be dis­tant from or aban­don the pro­tag­o­nist— and per­haps, by ex­ten­sion, the rest of the char­ac­ters in the col­lec­tion.

Cou­pling isn’t ro­man­ti­cized, de­spite a gen­eral tone that fa­vors it through­out the col­lec­tion: “My body missed him. My heart was on the fence,” ob­serves the nar­ra­tor in “Fidelity,” while Foster ex­plores the con­cept of find­ing a re­la­tional “good fit” via a tai­lor­ing metaphor. Emo­tional and phys­i­cal com­pat­i­bil­ity, and alien­ation from/ of both the self and oth­ers, are an ex­ten­sion of this theme of sep­a­rate, dis­tant gen­ders.

Char­ac­ters are al­lowed to ex­ist as both ten­der and rough, with ex­ter­nal ex­pres­sions of­ten con­trast­ing, out of habit or sur­vival, with the in­te­rior. Foster’s sto­ries ex­am­ine clas­sic ques­tions: What do men re­ally want from women? Is ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion un­avoid­able? Can fa­tal­is­tic op­po­si­tion truly ben­e­fit any­one in­volved, even those pre­sumed to in­habit more ad­van­ta­geous so­cial po­si­tions? This col­lec­tion is a mod­ern, fem­i­nist med­i­ta­tion.

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