Martin Amis, The Pregnant Widow
A comic yet cautionary tale about the casualties of sex unhinged from feeling This winking look at the Sexual Revolution and its aftermath centers around a group of British 20-somethings summering in an Italian castle in 1970. Amis’s protagonist Keith Nearing is a narcissistic literature student by turns obsessed with English novels and the preening breasts of his girlfriend Lily’s best friend Scheherazade. As his relationship with Lily becomes increasingly platonic, Nearing bumbles in his transparent efforts to get closer to Scheherazade. In the meantime, the women around him, from a prudish-seeming big-assed dancer to a libidinous friend lovingly referred to as The Dog, are exploring their own attitudes toward sex and relationships, and trying the predatory habits of men on for size. As we flash forward to his older years, Nearing himself is still caught between the quaint references to the women “falling” in his required reading, and a future in which shifted gender roles, liberating though they may be, result in a host of evils from serial marriages to Islamic resentment. The Pregnant Widow (the title referring to an Alexander Herzen quote about the gap between one social order and another) is a swansong to a summer of (potential) love and a comic yet cautionary tale about the casualties of sex unhinged from feeling.