Review

The Porno Girl: And Other Stories

by Merin Wexler



The eleven short stories that make up Merin Wexler's collection,
THE PORNO GIRL: And Other Stories, are not as sexually explicit as
the title suggests. However, they are about sex and relationships.
The collection is divided into three sections dealing with
"Mothers," "Daughters" and "Wives", though they are not actually so
clearly delineated in content. Each story is about a woman and a
relationship: to her husband, to her mother, to her child, to
another woman, to herself. Yes, there are relationships with men
here, but they are not usually at the heart of what is
happening.

In the eponymous story, a young first-time mother is tormented by
guilt as she indulges in her uncontrollable compulsion to watch
pornographic movies in a neighborhood adult video shop --- all the
while holding her infant daughter. Her desire is not to see the
pornography per se but to acknowledge the sexual being she
was before she gave birth. Her shame does nothing to keep her out
of the shop. Try as she might she cannot help but get to know the
shop manager, a man, it turns out, with which she has something
quite important in common.

Other characters face similar challenges: balancing morality
against emotional freedom and proscribed roles against autonomy.
Often frustrated and lonely they enter into unhealthy relationships
or find themselves (either expectedly or unexpectedly) alone. One
woman becomes pregnant in order to keep the nanny who is raising
her first child. Two young girls struggle to understand their
father's mental illness and turn to each other for support. A young
married artist has an affair with a man old enough to be her
grandfather and then must lose him, forcing her to question her
sexual instincts and emotional needs.

Each relationship, like each woman, is complex. Yet Wexler's style
is straightforward and readable. These are average women facing
situations and circumstances that, despite the reader's initial
shock, are not uncommon. Divorce, motherhood, physical and
emotional loneliness, uncertainty, and sexual identity are all
deftly explored. Some stories are stronger than others. And those,
in spite of their brevity, are quite strong. Overall, this is a
solid collection and an interesting debut. Candid about the
personal lives of women, Wexler presents her characters
respectfully and with intelligence and wit. Without judgment, she
allows her characters to act against some stereotypes while
personifying others.

THE PORNO GIRL, while not revolutionary, represents a brave and
forthright feminist voice. This collection is not a difficult read
but is emotionally challenging at times. It will not change your
life, but Wexler's characters will stay with you for a while.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

The Porno Girl: And Other Stories
by Merin Wexler

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2003
  • Genres: Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 0312310579
  • ISBN-13: 9780312310578