A Writer of Three Women’s Sex Lives Shares Her Own Journey

In the process, Ms. Taddeo began to reflect on her own story. “I got very intrigued by women’s desire, by my own, what I’d done,” she said. “These women had given their whole stories to me and to the world. And I felt like it was only fair that I put myself in there — to some extent to be like, ‘I’m this, too.’”

On a recent Friday afternoon, Ms. Taddeo arrived for lunch at Osprey, an upscale restaurant in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, wearing a camel coat, button-up shirt, velvet pants and riding boots, looking as if she had stepped out of an Anthropologie catalog. She and her family were in town for a McSweeney’s magazine party and had a room at the 1 Hotel upstairs.

Ms. Taddeo said she first became interested in the subject of desire by watching her parents interact. Her father, Peter Taddeo, was an Italian-American who grew up in New Jersey and attended medical school in Bologna, Italy, where he met her mother, Pia, a gorgeous fruit stand cashier with a fifth-grade education.

“My dad serenaded my mom outside her window with an old radio, which I always loved the idea of,” Ms. Taddeo said.

In Italy, her mother gave birth to her older brother, and the family moved back to New Jersey, where her father opened a family medical practice. As she grew up, her father’s desire for her mother was noticeable. “I was always sort of icked out by it, like any kid would be,” she said. “But I think that made me interested in men and the way they sort of needed what they wanted.”

When she read James Salter and Norman Mailer, she gained a new perspective on her parents. Men, she writes in the prologue of “Three Women,” do not question their desires or brush them aside, whereas women subvert theirs daily or even hourly.

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