In fact, for Whitney the two things were rather desperately tangled up with one another— the problem of her book, the problem of desire. Her working title spoke well enough about all of it. She had hundreds of manuscript pages, but it still seemed more like an idea for a story rather than a story in the making, and so the placeholder title, The Italian Novel. And how was she to write the kind of story she imagined in outline while living a life so empty and gray? She had watched herself struggle to catch hold again the pulse of desire. Over the last few months, for instance, she had begun to conjure up for herself one after another imaginary lover, like the young man in the dream, like a couple others in the waking world. There was cheerful Nicolo the butcher’s son, so handsome in his blood stained apron. There was the very good looking older gentleman sitting across from her on the train from Bologna. Not a word passed between them, but their eyes met once just after they left the Centrale, and Whitney at least felt herself at the edge of abandon. When she got back to the apartment, she lay down on the sofa, closed her eyes, and imagined the stranger fucking her.

The Italian Novel

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