(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sam Slovoda writes for comic magazines and feels overworked and underappreciated. He dreams of writing a great novel but cannot seem to organize his thoughts. Every time he begins to write fiction, he is overcome with the feeling that what he wants to say is too complex and his way of saying it is not focused enough.

A frustrated, middle-aged man, Sam also fancies himself a great lover and feels hampered in his marriage. He yearns for affairs with other women but does not act on his desires, feeling stymied by his wife, Eleanor, who does not appreciate how much he has to offer other women. He values intensity of feeling, yet his life is flaccid. He considers leaving Eleanor, going off to an unheated loft, and living alone as a man in quest of his genius and manhood. In other words, he is confronting a midlife crisis. He questions his mode of life and laments what he has failed to accomplish. He criticizes himself for lacking the will and courage to accomplish his ambitions.

Sam generalizes from his plight to a conception of the modern hero. He contemplates writing an essay about a hero who would be both a man of action and a thinker, but he doubts that any contemporary man could be such a hero. This is, in part, why Sam has so much trouble writing his novel: He cannot imagine a character who could fulfill his heroic potential.

One evening, Sam invites a group of friends over to watch a pornographic movie. Instead of doing something...

(The entire section is 546 words.)