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Lying in Bed

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According to a recent American sex survey, we’ve become a nation of fairly tame monogamists. In several new erotic novels, however, promiscuity still rules — though it makes men crazy and drives women to self-abasement and suicide. Just like the Puritans said.

The most notable — though by no means the only — sex in Lying in Bed is a marathon of self-satisfaction that goes on for several descriptive pages. Bizarre and hermetic, this novel by J.D. Landis is rendered as the paranoid confessions of the world’s most smothering husband. In a spacious Manhattan loft, John Chambers waits anxiously for his wife, Clara, to come home, and as we pass the long evening as voyeurs in his mind, we gradually discover that Chambers is very rich and very strange — quite possibly a lunatic. And he has a vocabulary strewn with the kind of arcane words — epizeuxistically, muliebrity, opsigamous — that you’ll otherwise find only in a game of Balderdash.

Landis wants us first to speculate where Clara might be — and then to wonder whether or not there really is a Clara. Is anything that Chambers tells us reliable information? This is a tricky book, but too coy, even smug, for its own good. C