Cover image for Rapture
Minot, Susan.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 2002.
Physical Description:
115 pages ; 20 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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Four years after her critically acclaimed novelEvening, Susan Minot gives us a new work of startling intimacy and precision. Using a single interlude--a brief encounter of old lovers; two bodies entwined on a bed at midday--Minot defines the distance that erupts at what seems to be the height of connection, as well as the extent to which the senses deceive, and the intensely private eroticism of fantasy and the imagination. Minot's lovers are mesmerizing in their individual journeys--one moving toward a kind of holy consummation, the other toward abnegation and blank despair. This is the wayward history of their efforts to make contact with each other while deluding themselves about the nature of the contact they're making. Graphic, erotic, provocative,Raptureis a meditation on romantic love, sex, and their reflections in the life of the mind.

Author Notes

Susan Minot, Novelist Susan Minot was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in Manchester-by-the-Sea. She studied writing and painting at Brown University and received an MFA in writing from Columbia University. She published short stories in Grand Street and The New Yorker, which led to an offer for a novel. Minot has also been a Greenpeace activist, a carpenter and a bookseller.

Minot's first novel, "Monkeys," took nine stories about the Vincent family and combined them to make up the semi-autobiographical novel. It won the Prix Femina Etranger in France in 1987. The Vincent's are a New England family of seven children, a Catholic mother and a Brahmin background father. The story covers twelve years of their lives and tells of a tragic accident that alters their lives. Her second novel, "Lust & Other Stories," is a collection about artists and journalists living in New York City. It examines the relations between men and women in their twenties and thirties, and the difficulty they have coming together and breaking apart. "Folly" takes place in Boston, during the 1920's to 1930's, and tells the story of a woman with a strict Brahmin background having the choice of a husband being the determining factor of her life. "Evening" is the story of Ann Lord on her deathbed. She relives a weekend love affair with Harris Arden, the greatest love of her life, in great detail, while her children stand by her believing her mind is blank.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This extraordinarily piquant novel by the author of Monkeys (1986) is framed--let's be frank--by an act of fellatio. During the course of this intimate experience, the man and woman surrender not only to sexual pleasure but also to a mutual and simultaneous need to rethink the circuitous path that led to this point in their on-again, off-again relationship. "Meeting an old lover could be a kind of ambush," as one character admits. "No matter how grounded you were in the present, your body could send you into the past." In alternate and silent voices, Benjamin and Kay recall the stages of how each infiltrated the other's heart, mind, and even soul, with the rush of sexual excitement prompting this involuntary analysis of the history of their affair. "Something had endured and brought them together again," as one of them reflects, and to identify what that is compels them to sort through--as if through a folder of documents--their shared experiences. In lush language correlative to the situation but in amazingly concise form, Minot explores the significance of sex, the value of longing, and the rewards and drawbacks of belonging. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Minot's new novella, set on the fringes of the film world, addresses one of her perennial themes, the different meaning men and women give to passion. Thirty-four-year-old Kay Bailey, a film production designer, has an affair with director Benjamin Young while they are shooting a film in Mexico. Benjamin, however, is engaged to Vanessa Crane, the girlfriend who has seen him through the ups and mostly downs of his filmmaking career. When Kay and Benjamin return to New York City, she tries to end the affair. But he is persistent, and what was casual becomes serious for Kay. All of this is narrated during one act of sex as, in alternating interior monologues, the two recall the events that have led to this moment. Engaged as they are, they do not speak; the landscape of their sex is entirely in their imaginations, and they could not imagine it more differently. While Kay comes to exalt the moment, Benjamin reveals himself as a cad, his life on the skids. Minot (Monkeys; Lust; Evening) has a great ear for the callow way people talk, scrupulously mimicking their groping thoughts and at times making a poetry of their inarticulateness: "She sort of sidewise conjured up a semidomestic arrangement tilting away from the totally conventional one she'd experienced with her parents." Moreover, Minot doesn't hide her characters' pretentiousness, as when Benjamin envisions his weak will as an "unfixable blot of doom" or Kay feels "altered in some big nameless way." All of which should add up to great satire, but Minot's novella is satiric only intermittently. She seems to take Kay's beatification seriously; even Benjamin is granted a cascade of sad and heroic images near his climax. The book is an odd amalgam, at times a smart satire, at times a way-we-live-now portrayal of 30-something life. Other times it just, well, sort of strains credibility. (Jan. 28) Forecast: The "he said, she said" premise is titillating, and readers will respond accordingly regardless of the critical reception. Some may grumble at the book's brevity, but the 60,000-copy first printing should sell out easily. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Kay and Benjamin, thirtysomething New York filmmakers, meet again many months after the end of their rocky love affair. They find the old attraction still strong and take advantage of circumstances to hop into bed, although they both know that it's a bad idea. Their afternoon tryst is physically and mentally overwhelming, and at a peak moment of sexual pleasure each partner's mind wanders. This short novel consists of their very separate and contrasting memories, hopes, and reflections, which create an amusing and mordant counterpoint to their seemingly deep human connection. Minot's clever peek behind the bedroom door will appeal to readers not averse to a bit of graphic sex in a novel of modern manners (fans of HBO's Sex and the City will enjoy the book). This latest by the author of Evening and Monkeys is recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/01.] Starr E. Smith, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



He lay back like the ambushed dead, arms flung down at his sides, legs splayed out and feet sticking up, naked. He lay in the familiar bed against the familiar pillows he'd not seen in over a year. Eyes closed, face slack, he might indeed have been dead save for the figure also naked embracing his lower body and swiveling her head in a sensual way. He opened his eyes, barely, and looked down at her. He looked with cool, lowered lids at her mouth pressed around him. As he watched he felt the pleasant sensation, but it was not making it up to his head. The good feeling remained relegated to what was going on down there. It stopped in the vicinity of his hips. He did like it, though. Who wouldn't? He especially liked seeing her down there after this long time. He had no idea what had gotten her there. He certainly wasn't going to ask her about it. There was no way he was going to wade into those dangerous waters and try to find out why she'd changed her mind or what she was thinking or why she'd let him back in or even if she'd changed her mind. He didn't want to jinx it, their being in bed together. Besides, he didn't really want to know. If he'd learned only a few things in their long association--and he considered over three years to be pretty long--one of them was that when Kay did tell him what was going on in her mind, the report was usually not very good. I honestly think you don't have any conception of what love is. She had a knack for being blunt in a way he didn't particularly want to deal with at the moment. He preferred this side of her, her solicitous side, which he was getting the benefit of right now. And even if he did want to know, he no longer trusted himself to ask her in the right way or have the right response ready for what she might say. He'd learned that, for them, there was no right thing to say. Plus, he didn't want to risk the subject of Vanessa coming up. He couldn't face that. Whenever Vanessa's name came up, it always ended badly. Of course, it worked the other way around, when Vanessa brought up the subject of Kay Bailey. If Kay Bailey came up things were likely to take a turn for the worse. He might be dense about some things, but he'd learned that. But wait, now that he thought about it, and being in this position allowed his mind sort of to drift and wander, Kay had already brought up the subject of Vanessa--earlier while she was making them lunch. She had her back to him, standing at the counter. She did not pause from slicing tomatoes in long, patient strokes when she half turned her face back to him. 'How's Ms. Crane?' she said. A little alarm alerted him to check her face and he saw no clenched jaw which he interpreted as an encouraging sign and so told her that he and Vanessa were still talking, which was true, and that Vanessa had not ruled out the possibility that they get back together, which was somewhat stretching the truth. It was, instead, a reflection of what he hoped the truth might be, despite the fact that Vanessa had told him in no uncertain terms--that was the phrase she used--that it was finally and absolutely over and she could not imagine them ever repairing the damage he'd done. Except that she did happen to be saying this sitting on the edge of the bed where they'd just spent the night together. So all was not lost. She was still seeing him. He didn't bother getting into these specifics with Kay. He wanted to be honest, but no one wants complete honesty if it's going to rip open your heart. Kay had simply nodded, uncharacteristically not reacting, and put the lopsided bread in the toaster. She was in one of her calm frames of mind. At one point while they were eating she looked at him in a pointed way and smiled, beaming. 'What are you smiling at?' he said, a little frightened. 'It's good to see you,' she said. She looked genuinely happy. He did not understand women. Like a draft in the room he could still feel how bad things had gotten and didn't expect to see her beaming at him this way. He certainly hadn't expected ever to be back in here either, in her small bedroom with the tall window and the afternoon light going along the long yellow curtain. He looked up at the ceiling. It told him nothing. But he kept his gaze there. If he was going to make sense of this it would be easier if he didn't look at her or at what she was doing to him. Instead, he thought, he should just bask in the sensation and, if he was lucky, it would take over his mind. God, he was lovely. God, he was sweet. God. God. God. This had to be the sweetest thing she'd ever felt, nothing had ever been sweeter. It was overwhelming, the feeling that this was pretty much the only thing that mattered, this being with him, this sweetness, this . . . communing . . . this . . . there was no good word for it. Her fingers encircled the base of his penis and she ran her parted lips up and down him, introducing her tongue like a third lip. Her other hand traveled over his stomach, exploring. It stopped. It moved over his hips. Her palm rested lightly on his skin, as if she were testing the heat over an electric burner. The palm descended, flat. It was a wonderful feeling: skin. Her brushing back and forth was hypnotic and lulled her. With her head bowed she glanced to the side with blurred lazy vision and saw his arm lying there on the sheet. The veins were raised over the back of his hand. She liked seeing his hand there, the manliness of it, and liked the fact that it was his hand and certain, and love for his hand spread through her. It seemed so large for how narrow the forearm was. She closed her eyes and brushed over him, not hurrying. His hand was certain while he had always been uncertain. But this, she thought, this. It . . . was . . . really . . . But he couldn't empty his mind. He hadn't seen her in so long. He'd finally gotten used to not seeing her. When last had he? Once eight months ago. Probably not two or three times in the six months before that. Her refusal to see him had been part of the continual attempt to enforce something. Not that she wasn't right to, not that he didn't deserve to be barred and not that it wasn't the best thing for her and, truth be told, for him. He had himself told her she was better off without him. He himself had admitted he was a sorry bastard and that she ought to have run away in the opposite direction the moment she saw him. He was the first person to own up to that. Not that he actually thought she'd believe him. It's easy not to believe the bad things about a person when you first meet, particularly if you're kissing that person. But he had warned her. He couldn't be accused of trying to put one over on her, or of pretending to be something he wasn't. He'd let enough people down recently not to be maintaining certain illusions about himself. Still, he wasn't going to take the blame for everything. Not everything was his fault. Some things a person can't help. Was it a person's fault if he fell in love with someone else? Could he have stopped that? He couldn't've helped it. How does a person help falling in love? Or, if you were going to take first things first, how does a person help falling out of love? That was the problem before anything. He'd fallen out of love with Vanessa. He still loved her, he'd always love her, but he wasn't in love anymore. He'd just lost it. So was it not understandable if a person found it difficult to face the excruciating fact that the person he'd fallen out of love with happened to be his fiancée? Well, he did face it. He hung in there. And, given his reasoning, he didn't think it so outlandish to believe that if he just stuck with her anyway she hopefully wouldn't notice that he, the guy who used to plead with her to marry him, to the point that it became a running joke, no longer felt the same lovestruck urgency. After all, they had been together for eleven years, which made the lack of urgency not surprising, but also in a way kind of worse. So anyway you do your best. You continue with the plan to get married--fortunately no date has been set--figuring she'll never notice the difference and will be spared the hurt. And it might haunt you a little, but you figure deep down that this is what was bound to happen over time anyway and that one can't stay in love like that forever. So you are pretty resolved with the situation when into your preproduction office of the movie you've been trying to make for the last eight years, which is finally, actually, coming together, walks a production designer named Kay Bailey who has a way of frowning at you and looking down when you speak as if she's hearing something extra in your voice. And slowly but surely is revealed to you your miserable situation in all its miserable perspective. The bedspread was sloughing off the end of the bed, the white sheets were flat as paper. This is not what she'd pictured when she asked him over for lunch today. It really wasn't. She may have changed her shirt a couple of times dressing this morning and put on lipstick, then wiped it off. It was Benjamin, after all. But she was not planning on winding up in bed. She was well aware there'd been other times in the past when she'd met him ostensibly as a friend and it had been known to evolve that some admission like I think about you still or the more direct I still want you would cause a sort of toppling of their reserve and before she knew it she'd find herself blurrily pushing him away at the same time that she was kissing him. When she finally managed to separate she would be half buttoned and unbuckled and the internal army which she'd had at attention to face him seemed to have collapsed into a dreamy, entwined heap. And, she had to admit, there'd been times when things had evolved a little further. She wasn't perfect. But there definitely were plenty of times when she had remained polite and restrained, when they didn't talk about matters of the heart or, to be honest, about anything important to either of them. That's how it'd been recently, for over a year now. Or more, if she thought about it. It always helped to resist him if she were sexually in thrall with someone else. Then the troops would stay at attention, no problem. But now, at this stage of things, she'd thought as she set out their lunch plates on the Indian bedspread which covered her plywood table, enough time had passed that she could feel safe whether there was another man or not. (At the moment, there was not.) Isn't that what everyone said? That after enough time had passed you wouldn't be affected anymore? What did they know? Look at her now. With him. Time hadn't protected her at all. Fact is, time had thrown her in the opposite direction. Look where it threw her: back in bed with the guy. And with fewer qualms about being with him than she'd ever had. Apparently time eroded misgivings, too. No one had mentioned that. No one mentioned how time saturated relations between people with more meaning, not less. None of this undressing would have happened without the passage of time. It wasn't exactly adding up as she'd figured. Small tentative blips of danger appeared on her radar screen, but they were easy to ignore. The little alarms of the mind are less likely to be detected when the body is taken over by pleasure. The first time he met her he was struck by something right away. She was leaning in the doorway of his office, a head with a fur-fronted hat like the Russians wear, talking to his assistant. He hardly saw her, a figure out of the corner of his eye, but that was enough. His chest felt a thump. When she walked in, he looked away. Not that she was so amazing-looking or anything, but there was something promising about her. His body felt it before he even knew what it was. Somehow his body knew she was going to change things. She was wearing a blue Chinese jacket with all these ties on it, and when she sat down at the table she undid some of them but didn't take off the coat. She sat and listened to him like a youth recruit listening to her revolutionary assignment. She even knew something about Central American politics. He gave her the usual spiel about the script, which of course she had read or she wouldn't have been there applying for the job, but he had to rely on automatic because he was feeling strangely backed into himself. He felt as if most of what he was saying was ridiculous, but it didn't really bother him because he was also feeling strangely vibrant. She stayed very still listening to him, frowning, businesslike which was in contrast to the flaps on her hat, which were flipped up kookily and trembled slightly when she moved. She kept her mouth pursed in concentration. Every now and then a twitch escaped from her mouth, as if it wanted to say something but was restraining. He told her about his struggles to get the movie made and cracked some usual jokes. He made her laugh. That was one thing he knew how to do, make a girl laugh. Her laugh had relief and surprise in it. It had a lot of girl in it. He wanted to keep making her laugh. She asked him, 'What was the first thing that made you want to make this movie?' Her brow was furrowed. Her mouth twitched as if suppressing a smile. It was a normal, regular question, but it seemed as if no one had ever asked him it before, or, at least, not with the interest she had, and he felt as if she'd just inserted one of those microscopic needles into his spine and was making an exploratory tap down into the deepest recesses of his psyche. It was weird. He liked it. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from Rapture by Susan Minot All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.