Michael Lowenthal

  • March 2021
  • University of Wisconsin Press
  • ISBN 978-0-299-33264-8
  • Paperback, Kindle
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Sex With Strangers: Stories

A fiercely honest exploration of the risks and rewards of contemporary relationships—and hookups—Sex with Strangers embraces the dizzying power of attraction across the spectrum of passion and infatuation. In this fearless collection, lust and loneliness drive a diverse cast of queer and straight characters into sometimes precarious entanglements.

Recognizing that any partner is unknowable on some level, Michael Lowenthal writes about how intimacy can make strangers of us all. A newly ordained priest struggles with guilt and longing when he runs into his ex-girlfriend. A woman weighs the cost of protecting her daughter from a man they both adore. A teenage busboy has a jolting brush with a famous musician. A young man tries to salvage a long-distance relationship while caring for his mentor, an erotic writer dying of AIDS.

In edgy, disquieting stories, Lowenthal traces the paths that attraction and erotic encounters take, baffling and rueful as often as electrifying. This fraught and funny collection forces us to grapple with our own subconscious desires and question how well we can ever really know ourselves.

Praise for Sex With Strangers: Stories

"The stories are studded with memorable flashes of brilliant writing and stunning details." Brandon Taylor, New York Times Book Review

"Lowenthal's latest collection simmer[s] with fearless honesty... In these searing stories, the gulf between who we think we are and who we become when gripped by desire is ever widening." Kirkus Reviews

"Lowenthal takes the reader beyond raw, brief sexual acts between strangers to reveal moments of true intimacy.... At the core of Lowenthal's stories lies the astonishing message that during sexual intimacy with a stranger, in the words of one of his protagonists, 'the stranger I discovered was myself.'" Provincetown Independent

"A book of clever misdirections... Keenly observant." Leland Cheuk, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Richly varied in both setting and scope...these smartly crafted stories explore the tensions between desire and restraint—the grand, enthralling fearsomeness of deep intimacy, of fully knowing another person." Gay and Lesbian Review

"Sex with Strangers explores our need for connection with wisdom and poignancy." Largehearted Boy

"A fiery collection... In language rich with metaphors, Lowenthal traces scenes that pop across the page." Bay Area Reporter

"Potent...mesmerizing... Lowenthal employs clean, clear prose and humane generosity in suggesting that every one of us contains a volume of mystery stories." Jim Gladstone, Passport Magazine

"In this pitch-perfect collection of sly, shapely stories, Michael Lowenthal turns his discerning eye on relationships up and down the Kinsey scale. What a tremendous gift to read such wise insights into the various ways people seduce, betray, surprise, and ultimately transform each other." Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

"What a stunning book this is, throwing off sparks at every turn. Michael Lowenthal's characters tread as close as they dare to intimacy, then closer. I can't remember the last time I read a collection this good." Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink

"This book, just like seeking sex with strangers in real life, is sometimes risky, sometimes about loneliness, and continuously offers lessons about the roots and vagrancies of our own desire. Sex with Strangers always leaves an impression and reminds us of the eternal resurrection of hope in the human heart." Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

"In sharp and often surprising prose, Lowenthal writes compelling, memorable characters, both queer and straight, who desire some form of intimacy. They want to be understood or seen, and they want to know themselves." Carter Sickels, author of The Prettiest Star