In her wise and sexy collection, Sallie Bingham examines modern-day “transgressions” in affairs of the heart. She offers up a ménage à trois, an older woman’s affair with a student, a painter who uses his age as an excuse to behave indecorously. But the reader quickly discovers the real transgressions are those of the self against the self.
In “The Pump,” a woman lies about her love life because she worries that “abandoned women look like dying witches.” In “The One True Place,” a gay couple shelter a young man, though they understand he will erode their relationship. Bingham’s stories are told with a sober reticence and the authority of real-life ambiguity; confusions of desire and morality, ambition and regret underlie each beautifully crafted tale.
Sallie Bingham brings to this book the skills of a passionate classicist. In the manner of Chekhov, the grand events of a life compete for attention with the dirty litter box, the just-noticed aging spots on a character’s hand, the casual remark that changes everything. Again and again we are startled by such seemingly humble juxtapositions. There is terrific gravity to these calmly told stories.
Transgressions marks an important milestone in this distinguished writer’s career.
From the jacket
“These are marvelous stories of experience and have the ripeness of wry, hard-won wisdom.”
— Phillip Lopate
“Ms. Bingham writes with an austere unerring knowledge of what it is to be human—and transgressive.”
— Paula Fox
“This is a wise and lovely collection.”
— Robin Morgan
“…an impressive collection of short fiction that finds aging men and women in a variety of erotic and emotional scenarios. The range is noteworthy.”
— Publishers Weekly
“With her fellow Kentuckian, Bobbie Ann Mason, Bingham is writing some of the most successful American short fiction, as the superb stories in Transgressions show.”
— The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky)
Best Books of 2002 – Lexington Kentucky Herald-Leader
Best Books of 2002 – Foreword Magazine
From “The Big Bed”:
It was the big bed that turned Liz to thinking about transgression. The frame as dark mahogany, so high Liz had to slide out of it as though she was sliding down a hill, and climb back up with one leg cocked to hip level to make the grade; the bed had been in the family ad was passed down to her because no one else wanted it. The pineapples carved at the top of the tall posts symbolized, she’d been told, hospitality.
Oliver, who’d led a different life in a different place with a woman he called “my friend” began one Sunday morning to talk about fantasies. Liz was instantly alerted, as though by the smell of something burning.”
Interview with the Author
“So many of the women I know, including myself, have made huge sacrifices usually in the name of love—taking care of people who might be able to take care of themselves. It’s really a case of love being an act of betrayal—the woman lets go of her own core, her own integrity, her own self, for someone else. These are transgressions against the self in the name of love.”
— Interviewed by Lynn Cline,The New Mexican