October 13, 2013

"In some ways, writing about sex seems more easily accepted in the contemporary literary world than writing about being a person of faith."

"What has been your experience in trying to explain why you believed for so long?" an interviewer asks Nicole Hardy, author of "Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin." She answers:
The sex part is difficult to write about. The verbs are terrible, and the nouns are worse. But the emotional act of writing about faith is difficult, more exposing. Anyone who has had a positive experience in any religion understands the ways that faith can be a buoy and a comfort and a joy. But it is sometimes hard to explain the exact feelings you have when you’re having a sexual experience.
I was surprised by Hardy's answer, which wasn't at all what the questioner was trying to elicit. The truth is it is hard to write about sex. The verbs are terrible, and the nouns are worse. 

Ha ha. Have you ever tried to write about sex, like actually describe a sexual experience in detail? It's hard. The adjectives too, as well as nouns and verbs. That's why there's that annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, where they embarrass writers of prestigious novels for writing things like "Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her."
Now, actually I don't think that's bad writing about sex. It's writing about bad sex. And the author of that winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award agrees with me:
[Rowan] Somerville says he was actually trying to paint a picture of bad sex in his novel....

"He has no idea how to actually make love. It's totally cold and inhumane... His sexual identity is profoundly scarred by his trauma."

When writing sex scenes, Somerville says, jokes come with the territory.

"I think you're never going to be able to integrate sex into a novel in a way that cannot be ridiculed," he says. Even citing sex scenes from Vladimir Nabokov's classic novel Lolita sound silly out of context, he adds.
Even? Especially! That's the point. Too blunt?

12 comments:

betamax3000 said...

Naked Nabokov Robot says:

Well, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it's really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new Lolita pill-box hat

betamax3000 said...

Naked Russian Novelist Robot says:

Her Room Smelled Unmistakably of Butterscotch and Unfairness and Beeswax Candles. The Flickering Flames Illuminated Her Naked Body LIke Hummingbirds at a Shared Feeder: It Was Then That My Man Stalk Hardened Like the Collective's Celery. Outside the Bolsheviks Crept Around the Farmhouse, But They Could Not Step Foot on My Needs, My Need for Her, My Little Naked Red-Breasted Robin of the Meadows: It Was Time For Me to Return to Her Nest and Rustle Her Feathers Like the Wind Does the Trees, Like the Dog Shakes Off Water. Mother of Russia, She Shall Be Mine...

rhhardin said...

Sex scenes are a lot easier to understand with urban dictionary at hand.

rhhardin said...

Faith deals with shiny shoes.

rhhardin said...

After a year, the Countess consented for the second time, and a second marriage was celebrated happier than the first, after which the whole family moved to V_. A whole line of young Russians now followed the first.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Sexy Technical Writer Robot says:

Slowly Unsheathe Tab "A" and Sensuously Insert It into Slot "B".

If at First it Does Not Seem To Fit Gently Wiggle Tab "A" Back and Forth: Take Your Time.

If This Does Not Work Press the Button Above Tab "B". Insert "Tab "A" Again. Repeat This Process as Necessary.

betamax3000 said...

That Would Be the Button Above Slot"B". Mistranslated from the Korean.

St. George said...

Uh, I think Annie Liebowitz devirginized that photo concept with Whoopi Goldberg.

Scott M said...

As a wannabe fiction writer, I find it embarrassing to think that a graphic sex scene I write into a narrative would be read by extended family or, someday, my children.

I've written a couple of scenes that included explicit sex, but I've never worked them into the narrative for the reason above. It wasn't the words, (verbs, nouns, etc) that I had such a hard time with. It was constantly thinking that those close to me would see it as a window looking in, right past the soul and straight into the id.

As a result, I just retweaked the action a little bit and cut the scenes completely. You can allude and intimate quite a bit. The grammatical version of a good one-piece women's swimsuit.

rhhardin said...

Yossarian: My fish dream is a sex dream.

Psychiatrist: No, I mean real sex dreams - the kind where you grab some beautiful naked woman and rip off her clothes and throw her down to ravish her and burst into tears because you love and hate he so much you don't know what do to. That's the kind of sex dreams I like to talk about. Don't you ever have sex dreams like that?

Yossarian: That's a fish dream.

Crunchy Frog said...

"Outside, I watched a farmer plow his field with yaks. The sky was a deep blue and there was a full moon."

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