In a friend’s sun-drenched living room high in the Berkeley hills, the ladies chat about love and literature over sushi and mimosas while three very quiet husbands hole up in the kitchen.
Copies of Amorous Woman are artfully arranged on a glass coffee table next to a dish of Japanese rice candy. Loosely modeled on The Life of an Amorous Woman, a classic erotic novel by the 17th-century writer Ihara Saikaku, Storey’s book depicts the picaresque adventures of Lydia Yoshikawa (née Evans), a young American with a passion for all things (and most persons) Japanese.
In other words, Storey says, “The book is not just a one-handed read.” And, it should be noted, Storey is not just a one-handed writer.
The “texture” of daily life in the floating world—the taste of a blowfish dinner, the smell of tatami, the “toaster-oven heat” of Osaka in the summer—such sensual details are “100 percent true,” according to the author, who kept a comprehensive journal during her own youthful exploits in the East.
“From what I read,” she says, citing Peggy Orenstein’s Schoolgirls, “there’s still that slut/good girl thing in full force today.
It’s not like, ‘Wow, you really know what you’re doing in bed.
Yet Amorous Woman also details “real-life situations and emotions,” as Storey points out a few days before the Berkeley hills bash, in the course of a conversation that starts at a kitchen table and winds up, hours later, over tea and tapas at César.
Unlike the standard stroke-book protagonist, Storey’s heroine encounters some unexpected obstacles along the path of sexual pleasure—a sincere but failed attempt at married monogamy, an agonizing decision about abortion—that transform her into a deeper, more battle-scarred human being.