Polite Sex

James Wilcox

A brilliantly observed, hilarious and poignant social satire. Wilcox’s novels (there are six and characters overlap) have the narrative litheness of Armistead Maupin and the piercing tragi-comic insights of Edith Wharton.

When Emily Brix and Clara Edward Tilman, two young women from Tula Springs, Louisiana, arrive in New York City in 1971, they carry with them all the youthful expectancy of a bright future filled with passion and accomplishment. Emily, fresh out of Smith and eager to begin an acting career, takes a middling job in a film production company – the first in a series of compromises that presage her yielding to a passionless marriage , negotiated as coolly as a contract. Clara, more impulsive, with vague aspirations to a career in modelling, finds herself embroiled in a reckless affair with a much older man, and even more surprisingly, stumbles into unexpected and sudden celebrity. As the years pass by, both Emily and Clara realise that growing older often involves costly concessions that lead to dead ends, and that concessions in love are the most damaging of all. Polite Sex follows the progress of these women in this strangest of cities, and observes with acuity, wit and great compassion the poignant and circuitous path toward adult happiness.

Reviews of Polite Sex

    • Praise for James Wilcox:
    • ‘Like Anne Tyler, Wilcox writes with a compassion best expressed in the willingness to laugh at his characters’ foibles.’New York Newsday
    • ‘Mr Wilcox has real comic genius.’Ann Tyler
    • ‘Wilcox conveys the paradoxical sense that human life may be random and absurd but that to capture that absurdity exactly in just the right words is to conquer it.’Mirabella