This book's epigraph tells us that 'the term "simple machines" is applied to the six so-called mechanical powers - the lever, wedge, wheel and axle, pulley, screw and inclined plane'. In six sections McEwen delivers a series of stories about love and sex, each playing with the imagery of the machine in question.
For example, 'Lever' reads like "Portnoy's Complaint" crossed with a mechanics textbook, 'Screw' is a second-person monologue directed at a man who is having difficulty separating love and sex, and 'Wedge' is a tale of college love and the various factors which drive the couple apart.
"The Five Simple Machines" is a lively funny read and McEwen has a nice turn of phrase (for example, a conversation in a bar is 'just a sizing-up laced with gin and din'). I felt that some of the pieces worked better than others; however overall I enjoyed the book and I look forward to exploring McEwen's other novels.