In between the sheets

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First Posted: 10/27/2014

When in reverie on themes of love, friendship, sex, and connection, I often think of Neil Gaiman who wrote: “In a perfect world, you could [screw] people without giving them a piece of your heart. And every glittering kiss and every touch of flesh is another shard of heart you’ll never see again.” Author and poet, Jak Jemc may be a newcomer, but her writing is not far off from Gaiman’s concept — something readers can vividly witness in her latest collection of short stories — “A Different Bed Every Time”.

Jemc first came into view in 2011 with chapbook, “The Stranger She’d Invited In.” In 2012, Jemc’s first novel, “My Only Wife” continued on through the path of success, receiving multiple awards and shortlist nominations. This year, her debut collection of short stories continues to demonstrate steadfast talent. The work is a sensually diverse exploration into emotions — sometimes fleeting, sometimes atrocious, and, should we get it right, those of longing — for feet touching and legs affixed.

The collection begins strong with piece, “A Violence”. Here, Jemc pulls readers in and keeps us following close behind her into darkened alleyways, the clacking of heels becoming a navigational pull of uninhibited passion and curiosity leading us to the unknown. In the piece Jemc writes: “I made up things to say and tried to find the right person to say them to. I am vibrating. I am beckoning. I have riddles for you. Men with thick piano-key fingers. Men who offered to change light bulbs for me. Men made of glass and ones built of brick. Men who took me to concerts and tried to tilt their heads to mine. Men who the closer I got, the less I could see.” Following suit, one should also get up close and personal with leading pieces, “The Dark Spot,” “Bent Back,” “A Willingness & Warning,” “The Tackiness of Souls” and “Recipe for Her Absence”.

In fewer than 200 pages, Jemc gives readers an extensive amount of short, yet punchy stories that make us feel comfortable about the uncomfortable aspects of life. The messy, sometimes tragic occurrences we experience between the sheets, like feelings or lack thereof. While not every story focuses directly with sexuality, the overall collection targets the human condition; drawing particular attention to how each character chooses to deal with their predicament, whether internally or externally. Readers complete the work finding the characters much like the work — beautiful, complicated, and, as a result, relatable.