Swipe left: Seven Sick Literary Hook-ups
I met my husband at a bar. He was wearing his ex-girlfriend’s tweed jacket, and I asked him to dance. Two kids and a mortgage later, we’re still dancing, but that’s not always the way it works. Even with dating apps, it’s tough to find a match in the real world, unlike in fiction, where the characters have us, right? Like real life, only better. Or is it?
More often than not, in fiction, just like life, the dating game can get incredibly twisted. Forget Romeo and Juliet, Elizabeth and Darcy, Jack and Ennis. The fictional hook-ups that mess with our minds are the ones that take on a dark life of their own, because in the end, there's no app as killer as story-telling, and in fiction, the game isn't ever over.
1. Trip Fontaine and Lux Lisbon in 'The Virgin Suicides' (Jeffrey Eugenides, 1993)
Teenage hot-rodder Trip Fontaine can have any girl he wants, but the one he wants is Lux Lisbon, the horniest of the suicidal virgins. Trip convinces her overprotective parents to allow him to take her to the Homecoming Dance, provided he match her sisters up with some of his most responsible friends. The result, narrated in a bizarre first person plural, is surely the strangest Homecoming in fictional history. After deflowering Lux in the end zone, Trip inexplicably leaves her to walk home alone with the white stripe of the goal line down the back of her dress. They never see each other again accept when Trip, like the rest of the boys, spies on Lux balling strangers on the roof of her family prison.
“Years later,” the narrator writes, long after Lux has, along with the rest of her sisters, killed herself, “Trip was reticent on the subject, in accord with his vows of faithfulness to the four hundred and eighteen girls and women he had made love to during his long career. He would only tell us, ‘I've never gotten over that girl, man. Never.’"
2. Jeff and Rachel, in “Escape from Spiderhead” (George Saunders, 2013)
He’s a reformed killer; she’s a junkie charged with triple homicide. Instead of actual prison, they both “volunteer” to be test subjects in a futuristic drug lab, trialing a love potion and its antidote (ED 289/90). One minute they’re fucking body and soul, the next they’re all, like, meh…whatever.
“That is powerful, that is killer,” gushes the mastermind behind ED 289/90. “We have unlocked a mysterious eternal secret. What a fantastic game changer. Say someone can’t love. Now he or she can. Say someone loves too much? We can tone that shit right down.”
Cool! Except for the final test that Jeff has to undergo: watching the deadly downer, Darkenfloxx be administered to Rachel, just to make sure there’s no “residual fondness” —or, god forbid, residual humanity.
3. Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes, in 'Misery' (Stephen King, 1987)
He’s a best-selling author and she’s his number one fan and their first kiss is in Sidewinder, Co., after he runs his car off the road. Annie gives him CPR,
“the way a man might force a part of himself into an unwilling woman, a dread mixed stench of vanilla cookies and chocolate ice-cream and chicken gravy and peanut-butter fudge.”
Annie bundles her broken idol Paul into her car and takes him to her remote farmhouse to “nurse” him, until she discovers that he’s killed off her heroine—the very same Misery after whom she’s named her prize sow—in childbirth. After that the honeymoon is so totally over. Oink.
4. Nathaniel and Olympia in 'The Sandman' (ETA Hoffman, 1816)
Before dating apps there was this creepy optician called Coppola who sold weird eye-classes to men to make them unable to tell the difference between a real woman and a blow-up doll. Under the influence of this distorting male gaze, Nathaniel ditches his imperfect fiancé Clara to romance the curvy automaton Olympia, whose own expression is set to Maximum Lust, and who answers all of Nathaniel’s questions with an orgasmic, “Ah ah.” Which Nathaniel, being a red-blooded lad who thinks with his app, takes as a yes.
5. Arnold Friend and Connie in “Where Are You going Where Have You Been” (Joyce Carol Oates, 1966)
Bad boys rock. The minute fifteen-year-old mall rat Connie lays eyes on the shaggy Arnold Friend, she knows he’s bad. So bad, it's good—just the way he looks at her from behind his reflective shades. But it’s not until he comes to her house, uninvited, to take her out for a date, and his eyes behind the shades are the wrong color and his cloven hooves don’t quite fill out his cowboy boots, that she realizes how some bad can never be good. Or rock. Not at all.
6. Laura and Carmilla in 'Carmilla' (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 1871)
Teenage Laura lives in a remote castle with her doting father. Apart from an erotic dream about being fondled under the covers and bitten on the breast by a beautiful female stranger, life is pretty sweet. Until one day a strange black coach upends itself on a bridge—spilling out the vampy Countess Carmilla Karnstein and her darkly veiled mom. Mom bows out, leaving Carmilla behind to ‘turn’ Laura in more ways than one. Like nibbling her neck and whispering sweet nothings about blood sacrifice, and how—
"as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit."
To which Laura, being a horny teenager who also thinks with her app, swipes right.
7. The Kid and the Judge in 'Blood Meridian' (Cormac McCarthy 1990)
The kid is a violent loner. Judge Holden is a giant hairless psychopath. Before joining the notorious Glanton gang's scalping, thieving dance across the West, they meet at a religious revival where, in the Judge’s propensity for sadistic meddling, the kid sees something of the diabolical. But it is not until somewhere down in Texas and they are the last men standing, that the Judge reminds the kid that there was and always will be room for only one Beast on the stage.
“Drink up,’ he says, “This night thy soul may be required of thee.”
Okay, so it’s not strictly a date, unless dances with destiny count, which they totally do, because in the end someone always gets fucked.
What's your favorite sick literary hook-up?
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