Arlene Heyman’s first book is a collection of seven continuously alarming short stories. The author, who is in her seventies, is a practising psychiatrist in New York City. The elderly men and women she writes about with sometimes disconcerting tenderness in Scary Old Sex have never even considered celibacy as an option. Like Marianne and Stu in one of the stories, ‘The Loves of Her Life’, they battle on:
But now that she was sixty-five and Stu seventy, spontaneity was difficult. She had acid reflux, and so had to stay upright for two or three hours after a meal or else suffer burning pains in her chest. And she had to insert Vagifem, low-level estrogen tablets, in her vagina twice a week so her tissues didn’t thin out. He used Viagra half an hour before sex, and because he tended to come too soon if they weren’t making love often, and once a week wasn’t often, he also took a dose of clomipramine, an antidepressant that had as a side effect retarded ejaculation.
Marianne occasionally thinks of David, the dead husband who remains the true love of her life, while Stu is huffing and puffing with frustration. In ‘Dancing’, the longest and most painfully beautiful story here, a younger man, Matt, is in the process of dying, as his alternately hopeful and despairing