Insatiable by Sloane Britain (Midwood #57, 1960)
The protagonist of this novel is Sandy Hastings — a little nod, it seems, to March Hastings, a lesbian author at Midwood that Elaine Williams edited. It also deals with the dynamics of D/s relationships aong the wealthy and elite
But it starts out as the story of Sandy’s normal married life. She’s been married for two years to Ray Singer (Ron Singer was Sally’s brother and also a Midwood author as Greg Hamilton, Jesse Harper, and others) and they have been good years. Up till age 21, all her experiences wth men had been bad and she’d given up on finding a good fellow, until one day writer Ron Singer walked into the library she worked at for research. He courted her and they married…
At 23, Sandy becomes a widow when, rushing to meet Ray at the train station, back from a trip, missing him, he is hut by a car of hoods running away from a police car.
Ray’s body flew gracefully through the air in one last momet of bird-like freedom […] Ray’s flight ended […] in a squishy thud to the pavement directly in front of Sandy.
She looked at him, or what was left of him, with as little comprehension as she had witnessed the whole scene. Finally, one thought struggled to consciousness.
How absurdy melodramatic, Sandy thought as she collapsed to the ground. (p.39)
Insatiable is an absurd novel that is pessimistic (cynical?) with dark humor, almost like a Barry Malzberg volume.
Sandy is hospitalized from shock of seeing her husband killed in such a violent manner, her memory spotty. She goes to live with a friend in Manhattan, Myrna. Myrna runs around within the elite theater crowd of Broadway producers and actors and inventors. This is how she meets Marie Sullivan, well-known and wealthy Broadway actress, albeit an aging actress with many personal issues despite her fame and fortune.
Here I think Britain is patying homage to March Hastings beyond the use of a last name — Hastings’ novels are populated by women and lesbians in the upper class arts: painters, writers, publishers, actesses, etc. Her characters are from welathy backgrounds or new found money, unlike the simple school teachers and secretaries that Britain usually writes about.
Marie’s duplex apartment on West End Avenue was as lavish as a movie set — one that had been left out in the rain. The place was packed with overstuffed couches, silken cushions, thick rugs, and heavy, opulent draperies […] Marie herself looked like her apartment. (p.75)
Marie and her friends take an unusal interest in Sandy and Sany wonders why, she doesn’t come from their world. The fact that Sandy is an “ordianry person” who has suffered a gtear tragedy fascinates these theater people who suck on others’ pain. Sandy also notices how controlling Marie is with people, and soon learns that Marie likes to play D/s games with her as the dominant.
One night, getting drunk with Marie and her producer pal Carl, Marie orders Carl to make love to Sandy so she can watch. Sandy is drunk and wondering what the hell is going on. The more she fights Carl, the more Carl and Marie enjoy it. Finally, Marie tells Sandy,
“Carl will do anything I tell him to.”
“I can see that,” Sandy responded.
“But you don’t seem to realize that he only obeys me because he enjoys it.” Maries hesitated for a moment. “You’ve see the way Carl waits for me to tell him what to do. Now do you get the picture?” (p.83-84)
Sandy moves in with Marie, not as a lover but as a pet — a pretty girl to show off and to command. Marie is not a lesbian and in fact finds lesbians perverted.
Sandy meets Lynn, also a “pet” for another rich Manhattanite female. The two have something in common. Lynn is a lesbian, and seduces Sandy, but when Marie walks in on them…well, everything end with a squishy splat and Sandy thinks: I’ve heard that sound before.
It’s indeed…absurd. Worthy of Camus.
And the title. Also an absurdity of genre paperbacks, as it doesn’t quite fit the story. This is not a sex novel, per se, nor a lesbian novel despite the one gay sex scene; it’s about power, control, and the fallacy of games played by the bored rich, because they do not have the worries and concerns of “normal” people.