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STORY BEHIND THE BOOK

After a career in novels, Michael Lowenthal turns to short stories

David Wilson For The Boston Globe

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.”

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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.”

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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 kate.tuttle@gmail.com.