‘Blowing Shades’ by Stuart Dybek

Dybek, Stuart 1997

Blowing Shades by Stuart Dybek, 1997

The magic trick:

Writing a tasteful sex scene

I did a whole week on Dybek’s story collection, Paper Lantern, in March and somehow managed to write not one word about sex. That book is nothing if not explicit in its nostalgic sexuality. So let me rectify that omission by mentioning it in this post. “Blowing Shades” is nothing if not explicit in its nostalgic sexuality. There.

But, really, it’s a fairly risky choice. He writes about women and memories of sex scenes in occasionally graphic ways. That can tumble into lurid romance novel territory quickly, if not downright smut. And I hope I don’t sound like a prude. I just mean that when your focus, thematically, is memory, love and passing time, you don’t want the sex scenes to overrun your tone. Dybek never seems to. At least, in my opinion, he doesn’t. They add drama, tension, stakes and a real sensuality to the stories. And that’s quite a trick on Dybek’s part.

The selection:

She was on her feet, knocking over the chair, kicking through the clothes strewn beside the bed, and pulling on her slip.

A slip she sometimes didn’t remove. But today, before they’d exchanged a word, she’d stripped off her clothes, no longer shy about the sag of her breasts. Maybe it was simply too close – still air before a summer storm – to lie beside him in the slip. Nonetheless she’d worn it beneath her sundress. She knew he liked her in it from how he drove her into the mattress kissing her throat like he was crazy for her, her shoulder straps slipping down, a breast popped over the lacy bodice, while the silk rode up her jittering legs so that the V of her dark bush showed like a flash of panties.


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