Throwing a literary party for one

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If you're looking for a good book to read on New Year's Eve that means you're alone, which is probably because your love life shows itself as often as the Loch Ness monster. We here at the Orlando Weekly would like you to embrace this situation, so we offer New Year's reading suggestions in the appropriate spirit.

If you want to read about bad sex or good sex gone bad, there's the short-story collection "High Infidelity" (Morrow, $13), featuring adultery tales by the likes of Russell Banks, Margaret Atwood and John Updike. The sharp writer Alison Lurie has a new novel, "The Last Resort" (Henry Holt, $22), in which the supportive but unfulfilled young wife of a famous naturalist convinces him to vacation in Key West. (This plot opens up a whole tangent of older man/younger woman scenarios, which may be on a lot of people's impeachment-preoccupied minds. If you'd like to follow this line, a few classics will suffice, such as Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" and Marguerite Duras' "The Lover.")

To get acquainted with a Florida artist well worth knowing, the 1996 novel by Gainesville-based writer Padgett Powell, "Edisto Revisted" (Henry Holt, $12), involves an affair between cousins that goes wrong (but finally straightens itself). Powell's a wry, virtuoso author who writes dialogue sharp as tacks, and this book includes one of the funniest getting-drunk-in-a-bar scenes ever put to paper.

For first-rate wallowing in your aloneness, try "Nothing But You: Love Stories from The New Yorker" (Modern Library, $15), in which luminescent authors such as Raymond Carver, Alice Munro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez ponder the fleeting and the enduring. Perhaps the most masochistic book to read alone while others are floating on the drunkenly promiscuous feeling that champagne brings is "The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23), by the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. It's filled with an eye-popping, envy-invoking array of sexual activity, perhaps true, perhaps just one man's daydreams, conveyed in blindingly gorgeous prose.

But really, you might just need to get clinical about the issue. "Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex" (Oxford University Press, $30), by Linda R. Hirshman and Jane E. Larson, will bring you up to speed on some history regarding things like the Kinsey Report on sexual behavior, the politics of the Playboy philosophy and a few Supreme Court decisions. Your best bet in the end, though, might be "Savage Love" (Plume, $12.95), a collection of Q&A's from syndicated sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. This stuff is raunchy and hilarious, addressing both hetero (i.e., "breeder") and homo quandaries. It's blunt. (One piece of advice: "If he starts bucking, bite him." You figure it out.) It's, well, very blunt. (One chapter is called "Almost Everything Breeder Boys Need to Know About Women's Genitals.") You'll probably learn something. So maybe you can spend next New Year's Eve reading aloud to someone else.

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