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Diary of a Sex AddictDiary of a Sex Addict
By: Scott Alexander Hess
ISBN: 1466258861
August 2011

Reviewed By: Ashley Lister

He’s sexy in dim light.

Speedoboy is clearly not a boy, but I’m guessing not far from forty and incredibly lean to the point of being bony. Never too rich, too thin, too hung. His Speedo is royal blue and very tight. He smiles a lot, though I wish he wouldn’t because he
could use a good orthodontist.

I fall back on my sofa. Speedoboy comes at me like he’s going to dive, then he lands with his torpedo thin body on top of me. He grinds our crotches together. His cock is big and if he weren’t so rough and anxious it would feel good. He’s resting his long skinny arms on the back of the sofa getting louder with his “Oh fuck yes baby” calls when a single drop of blood lands on my shoulder. I think of the saint that cried blood tears, St. Agnes. I was raised Catholic and recall an art project making cardboard cut-outs of every saint born in the month of December.

Speedoboy has leapt up and is now lying on the floor. He’s very quiet. His fingers squeeze his tiny nose.

In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolyn Fairfax says, I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

It’s unlikely that innocent and naïve Gwendolyn, even in her most extreme flights of fancy, would have written anything as powerful, profound and absorbing as Scott Alexander Hess’s Diary of Sex Addict. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that this diary remains something sensational to read in the train.

Diary of a Sex Addict begins on December 7th in a New York apartment where the story’s unnamed narrator relates the symptoms of a compelling addiction to sex. The story is set in a contemporary New York so vividly described I imagine the print version smells of bagels, pizza and yellow cabs. It’s a New York so real that a reader could get mugged whilst turning from one page to the next. This is an example of the high quality of the writing as we’re introduced to the narrator’s aunt:

She’s a large, healthy-looking 80-year-old woman, with blue oval shaped eyes, glossy blonde hair and porcelain, precisely botoxed skin. She’s still vibrant, though at times, between vast silences, her mind will spread open like a cobwebbed fan and blow out incoherent memories. I don’t know if her tales are fact or fiction, most likely a mix. Her favourite subjects are a six year period when she made summer visits to my parent’s farm in Arkansas when I was child, and her brief time on the New York stage. I remember she’d come every summer when I was six up until I was twelve. Then the visits stopped, though I don’t recall why.

It’s writing that is rich in detail, vivid in description, and droll in execution. Other reviewers have described this title as being gritty but I’d argue that it’s simply frank and honest – and it’s a rare title that can manage to combine the erotic with the truthful.

As I said before, the story is set in a contemporary New York: an über-contemporary New York. That contemporaneous quality is best illustrated by the narrator’s reliance on ultramodern technology. We’re introduced to a man who has visited Ikea, listens to neighbours discussing Pottery Barn and Cheerios, and trawls sites like grindr and manhunt. The narrator ‘raffishly’ steals a wi-fi connection from a neighbour and, when that fails, has to rely on a backup internet fix from his iPhone. This is a man living in a very modern world, telling a modern story aimed at very modern readers.

This is how the narrator begins a typical day:

I’m nude now, in front of my Ikea mirror, my skin damp and glistening with the soapy remnants of Mr. Bubble. I start every day here, in this exact spot, taking pictures of my reflection to post on internet sex sites. The shots are from a distance because I look so damn lean and cut-up from far off. I do this at 7 A.M., because I am happiest at this time. The day seems possible. The subsequent hours are really just a slow motion tumbling back toward the black hole. I think Sartre said something like “Life begins on the other side of despair.” He was a fucking genius, probably a sex addict.

It’s only fair to warn readers that this Sartre quote could be perceived as a theme that propels the book. The narrator starts the day in high spirits and the mood dwindles and declines as the day progresses. The sex in this story is not the cheeky, cheerful fluffy-bunny sex of an erotic romp or a hearts-and-flowers romance with explicit kisses. The Diary of a Sex Addict depicts a barrage of honest, in-your-face encounters that range from the disappointing to the darkly satisfying and from the depths of disturbing to the delights of discovery.

It would be easy to dismiss this as the story of a character’s indulgence in excess to avoid the necessary truths of aging and responsibility. And it would be easy for a reviewer to spoil the story here for any potential readers who haven’t yet encountered Hess’s title.

The Diary of a Sex Addict is a have-to-have title for any reader who enjoys their fiction when it’s frank and sensational.