Daphne Merkin is an essayist known for her take—at once both ferociously observant and fiercely introspective—on everything from depression, spanking during sex and the importance of handbags. In 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)) her first novel in more than 30 years, Merkin turns her gimlet-eyed attention to Judith Stone, a young book editor in New York City who has not yet had her first real reckoning with love—or with the erotic charge that often fuels it.
Enter Howard Rose, the somewhat older attorney she meets at a party. Howard arouses her in ways she’s never before experienced and very quickly, she’s putty in his hands. That he’s inclined to insult, undermine and emotionally abuse her only makes him more desirable. Merkin talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the nature of lust, love and whether the two can ever truly be reconciled.