Monday, February 11, 2013

The Awkward Art of Writing about Sex

Sam Lipsyte discusses it for the New Republic.

From the story...

Ever since the "earth moved" in Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, and probably long before, people have enjoyed a good snigger at bad sex scenes in books. We love to gloat over any writer's failure to properly render the emotions and mechanics of Eros. There are many ways to botch it, of course, and more and more prizes for doing so. There are online forums about how to better imagine what, with a certain numerical austerity, used to be called the beast with two backs. There are also unanimous opinions about what diction and manner to avoid. (Words like "shaft" or "gazongas" are obvious no-no's, but so are aching leaps toward lyricism, unless you manage the rare graceful landing.)

We delight in the comedy of bad sex writing, probably because it corresponds to the comedy of our bodies, which are, minus the most gorgeous 1 percent, not nearly as delectable and confident as we might fantasize. That's why this sentence, from an old pornographic novel called Her Willing Young Boys, is sublime: "Even so, Angelina continued to thrust herself upon him, reaching climax after climax, her come glistening in the rays of late afternoon sun that poured through the window." It is the humorless reach toward poetry (if only the possibly pseudonymous author, Betty John, had mentioned "coins" of sunlight, or better, "shafts") and the subsequent fall to the reefs of mediocrity that get us chuckling. And we can all find examples of "serious" writers doing not much better.

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