Seven Sweet Things – A Novella with Recipes – Shaun Levin (Lethe Press)

Buy it now direct from Lethe Press .
Seven Sweet Things – A Novella with Recipes – Shaun Levin (Lethe Press)
Oh, what an effort it is
to love you as I do!

For love of you, the air,
my heart
and my hat hurt me.

Who will buy of me
 this ribbon I have
and this grief of white
linen to make handkerchiefs?

Oh, what an effort it is
to love you as I do!

“It Is True” Federico Garcia Lorca
As linens spun from gathered Hyacinth or, yes, as cookies, cakes, fudge conjured by the cook’s alchemy, Shaun Levin gives us morsels, crumbs, swatches, scraps of delicately woven, gut-churning lyric—songs, really—that feed, clothe, nourish, warm any writer’s muse or reader’s want for fulfilling sustenance.
An aging romantic, a writer, a baker—gray hairs upon his chest—suffers the impermanence, the fragility of an affair, a love for a younger man—black hair brushing his cheek, freckles upon his shoulders, who moves through the narrative as Sandburg’s Fog on “…little cat feet…”—who is encumbered by a woman, a wife, and perhaps other men. Or, more precisely, it is the older man, Shaun, who is burdened by his love’s real and suspected infidelities.
The cakes and cookies (recipes included) are not so much—a component, yes, but not so much—the older man’s means to lure or delight his quarry. No, the food, the baked lusciousness is just there, to be enjoyed, juxtaposed against the satisfaction of the fuck; yes, the inimitable lusciousness of the fuck. 
But the words, ah, just taste these words: 
On the day we met we’d made love for six hours. I thought: So this is what a muse looks like. This is what Picasso relied on to keep painting. This is what Gertrude saw in Alice, what Lewis Carroll saw in his colleague’s little daughter. I rely on every type of beauty to keep writing: the beauty of trees and rocks, mud and long walks through forests, kneeling by a stream to wash my face in icy water. I need to get close to creation to create. My love is creation; he is the chaos made perfect.
…There’s no point in talking about love to a lover.

And his cum falls like holy water, like kind words and promises.

I see my beloved in the body of Christ. I catch the blood that drips from his open palm. I lick the flesh from around the stakes in his feet. I adore his arms stretched out like wings, the swept wisps of hair in each armpit, like one ostrich feather. And all in the perfect Florentine landscape. Wherever I look as I wander through The National Gallery, my love is there; every immaculate body his: seduced by Caravaggio to pose naked with grapes, watched over in his sleep by Botticelli to be transformed into Mars. He is sleek, muscular, baby-faced perfection; with his body close to mine, I rejoice in myself.
Finally (I would, if could, give you all Levin’s words), Today I wake up wanting only essence. Gold and coal and pearls. Hard-earned essence with a history. I drink tea and sit in my armchair by the window. I am sick of autobiography. I am a hamster on a wheel in a cage. You have to fly to write fiction; the ones with clipped wings and wounds keep repeating their stories over and over again. A baby bird doesn’t know it will fall flat on it face if it tries to leave the nest. The only story it knows is flight.
The older man, the younger man (Ah, Hyacinth, would that I had been Apollo!) travel through Levin’s narrative with the tenuous flow of lopsided desire from the elder, seeming ambivalence from the younger. And with the storytelling comes a writer’s adoration of words, the meaning, the effect of words, the images, the haunting images of a literarily inclined yearn to project the essential worth of putting one word after another in such a way that the inevitability of the procession is enrichment, wonder, delight.
Dare I gush with the worth I perceive in this, Levin’s little gem of 125 pages? Dare I want for more of this valued stuff, both as a reader and a writer? Yes, of course I do. 
Ah, I fear I’ve left Levin to really speak for himself here. What matter. I could never best Levin.  Res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself.
This reissue from 2003 of  “Seven Sweet Things,” surely speaks to what some of us have experienced in our own lives. Yes, Lorca’s conclusion works here: Oh, what an effort it is to love you as I do!
Reviewed by George Seaton  
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