While Matt Snee’s latest novel, The Year I Slept, is undeniably erotic, it would be a disservice to categorise it as erotica. The book does have its portion of erections, nipples and ejaculations but they are part of a wider context. Unlike a lot of erotic novels, the pages between sex scenes are more than a short walk to the next quick fuck. Moreover, the sexual content, much like the larger piece as a whole, is an exploration of lust, love, control and ultimately, human connection.
We meet Emerson sitting in a parked car outside a funeral in progress. The love of his life is dead and our protagonist is condemned to a life lived under the shadow of suicide. Lin, a Chinese immigrant who was always just out of Emerson’s reach, has gone, leaving a trail of unanswerable questions in her wake. Incapacitated by guilt and rejection, Emerson sinks into an all-consuming depression, from which his only escape is sleep.
Escape is a major theme within this emotionally investigative novel. Rowan, Emerson’s high-school sweetheart and eventual saviour, is trying to escape the repetitive quality of past mistakes. Tim, Lin’s narcissistic, sexually abusive lover, is trying to escape the hell of himself. And of course, by her own hand, Lin has committed herself fully to the final act of escape.
All of these characters have varying levels of self-loathing in common. With the exception of Tim, they also share redemptive qualities. Lin is well-meaning but poisoned by life’s toxicity and has become a toxic person. A loveless childhood has rendered her ill-prepared for adult life. She craves company and sexual contact, both of which are readily available and neither of the two ever quite satisfy. She is a mysterious woman, hard to know, utterly lost and determined not to be found, she is a flame to the moth of male insecurity.
Rowan is not altogether dissimilar to Lin. She has her share of pain, unlike Lin’s ubiquitous ghost though, Rowan’s pain is contained and isn’t contagious. In fact, despite her impulsive nature, she is the guiding light Emerson needs to navigate his way through the past, figure out what it means to be present and overcome the deeply embedded self-loathing which prevents him from trusting any kind of future. Disgusted by himself and crushed by a burden of guilt he is not entitled to, Emerson must look death square in the eye before reconciling himself with the joys of life.
In The Year I Slept, Matt Snee is respectful of the complexities of human inadequacy. Be it unintentional or through outright spite, the consequences of fallibility are severe and long-lasting. Here is a novel which pays tribute to the human struggle in all its kindness and cruelty; a sexually charged, emotionally driven, exploration of lust, love, control, redemption and ultimately, human connection.
Author: Matt Snee
Title: The Year I Slept
Page Count: 150
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