“Sex With Strangers” is Michael Lowenthal’s first story collection, coming after four novels. After his most recent novel, 2012′s “The Paternity Test,” Lowenthal figured he’d write another. “I tried for a long time to come up with another novel idea. I went down a few research rabbit holes,” said Lowenthal. “Which kept me very happy. I love the research process.”
But it didn’t take. Lowenthal realized, he said, that he wasn’t in a novel-writing frame of mind. “It takes a certain kind of ambition to not only dream up a novel-sized project but to allow yourself to believe that you’re the person who could pull it off. For whatever reason or constellation of reasons, I just don’t feel that ambition right now, or that scope.”
So he turned to short stories, writing new ones and gathering older ones into a collection. “It’s a chance to revive some old work and combine it with new work and sort of lay down a marker about the themes that have been important to me for a while,” said Lowenthal. When deciding on a title, a friend suggested he pluck a phrase from the book’s final story. Some of the stories do feature sex with strangers, he added, “but I also love how each of those terms can open up into other possibilities: What counts as sex and what counts as a stranger?”
For Lowenthal, who has taught at Lesley University since 2003, it’s nice to have a new book in the world. “When you go ten years without a book you can feel as if you’re writing and thinking into a void,” he said. “To have a chance to connect with readers again and to actually say, ‘this is who I am and this is what I think about,’ is really heartening and inspiring.”
Michael Lowenthal will read at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a virtual event hosted by Brookline Booksmith.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at email@example.com.