BY TRISTA EDWARDS
We’ve all been in love. No. More than that. We’ve all been drugged by love…high on lust, infatuated, aching to be desired. I’m talking love that throbs, that interminable pain in the body that goes beyond language. The kind of love that you might argue others could never understand, yet there’s something so primal, so pulsing, about it that you are convinced that this feeling (or whatever it is) HAS TO BE the pure blood and purpose of existence.
Melissa Broder (author of the essay collection So Sad Today and four poetry collections including the most recent Last Sext) writes in her first novel, The Pisces, of Lucy, a woman who leaves behind her home in Arizona and a broken relationship to house-sit for her sister for the summer in Venice Beach and care for her sister’s one-and-only fur-child, a diabetic foxhound named Dominic.
While trying to fuck away her ex and relentless depression through numerous terrible Tinder dates and while trying to avoid working on her disaster of a dissertation, a nine-year project on the love queen herself, Sappho, Lucy meets Theo who swims up to her one night while brooding seaside.
Oh yeah, Theo is a hot as a hell merman.
And so brings an epic, surreal, reality-shattering sexcapade (No spoilers here. You will have to read to learn the anatomy of this coupling) that we only ever read about in the myths of antiquity.
The Pisces is part fantasy, part erotica, (Step aside, Anaïs Nin. Seriously, I had to stop and fan myself with this book more than a few times while reading.) but mostly a stunning retelling of the timeless story of what happens when we succumb to the complex twins of love and lust—how it can hurt us and the scars it can leave.
In many ways, The Pisces is a more realistic love story than any sappy, paper heart, chocolates, and marriage narrative that saturates pop culture. Sure, Theo’s a merman who has the body of a 20-something but may have actually known Sappho, but the addiction, the high of love/lust, is wholly familiar.
Broder doesn’t shy away from the role of the body in love—the need to be cradled, sucked, filled, kissed, licked, to bleed, and to come in the most base and cosmic of ways—and how the body leads us to seek that next high. (Which actually takes Lucy, again and again, back to the arms of group therapy and the lives of her peers who also suffer from love and sex addiction.)
Just check out this passage in which Lucy contemplates sex with Theo as he climaxes:
This was pure sound. It was as though his mouth emitting pure nature. His mouth was like a shell that you could put to your ear. Or maybe we were nature together? Were we shells or were we animals? Or one shell and one animal? No, we were two fish swimming in circles around each other, playful and spared of memory, unaware that we had ever been born and that we would ever die. We were connected now not only with all of human history—all the human lovers of the past—but with animal history as well. I’d been having sex for years. I’d had it hundreds, maybe thousands of times, but it was like I finally understood what sex was. There were only so many things in our lives that connected us to all of our ancestors, to all of humanity and to the animals. Poetry was one thing that bridged generations. But this was a big thing. This encompassed every species. Otherwise what was there? There was birth and death. There was eating food, drinking fluid, pissing and taking shits. There was this.
Uh. Yes, please. Hallelujah. Ahem. Show me a more beautiful, poetic description of sex. Is there one? I doubt it.
We were two fish swimming in circles around each other, playful and spared of memory, unaware that we had ever been born and that we would ever die?
Whew. I need a drink. Pass the cab.
Lucy follows that up with this gem:
And what of love? I felt certain this could be nothing but love, and if this was only love or infatuation or a simulation of love—well, then give me lust or infatuation. This is how I wanted to feel love. This was the love I wanted. I didn’t want the other kind of love, whatever that love was. I didn’t want the "conscious" kind. Had anyone tried to send the Sirens to group therapy or Sappho to the UCLA psych ward? Homer gave the Sirens a bad repetition. Falling in love with a Siren meant certain death, but perhaps this was the greatest love: to die in feeling. This was the greatest annihilation—the highest purpose—the Sirens themselves are not evil. They were simply giving human beings the greatest gift they could possibly give them, to die intoxicated by love and lust. What better way to die?
This book both surreal and familiar. It is highly likely that you may recognize yourself in Lucy. You may read this book and be reminded of your own infatuations, past and present. You may empathize with Sappho, Lucy’s own tortured muse and the queen of unrequited love, as she appeals over and over to Aphrodite to answer her prayers and ease the pain of heartache.
May you will understand the chase—the euphoria—of love. Lover be damned. It could be anyone. It is the feeling you are after because, as Lucy speculates, "the world, with all its beauty, [is] not enough. Simply being alive [is] not enough. The Greeks needed a new fantasy to make the world more exciting. With their war, wine, poetry, gods, and food, they needed to get high. Maybe we all [do]."
So the Greeks created myth and in that myth was love.
The Pisces is, at its very essence, the epic story of love, lust, and loss. The most real and addictive story we know.
Trista Edwards is an assocaite editor at Luna Luna Magazine. She is also the curator and editor of the anthology, Till The Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2015). You can read her poems at 32 Poems, Quail Bell Magazine, Moonchild Magazine, The Adroit Journal, The Boiler, Queen Mob's Tea House, Bad Pony, Occulum, and more. She creates magickal candles at her company, Marvel + Moon.