Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Why Jonathan Can't Write a Sex Scene
The best part Katie Roipe's complaint about the wimpy way new (white male straight American) novelists write about sex nowadays was the letters published Sunday. No, the best part was the charticle, definitely the charticle.
I have my quibbles too, though I didn't articulate them in time to make any letters columns or anything. OK, first thing, the reason the woman threw the new Roth in the subway trashcan was I bet less because the sex scene sucked than because Roth does the biggest dumbass move ever: He takes a character who is a lesbian and has her suddenly want to have a threeway with a geriatric MAN. MAN. SHE IS A LESBIAN. SHE WILL NOT WANT TO FUCK A MAN. That is what being a lesbian usually means. Lesbians are not all waiting to fulfill a man's fantasy, as most of us learned in like the 70s? Toss that beat into the garbage can, Zuckerman! Not even The Situation of Jersey Shore fame would commit such a rookie error, you demented old fiend!
Quibble two: Who cares if Dave Eggers or Jonathan Franzen can't write sex scenes? Or don't seem to know how to deal with sexuality at all, have no sense for its pulse through life and art? There are any number of women and gay male writers and men and woman from other countries and cultures who are very good at it. Read you some Mary Gaitskill or Kate Braverman or Kathryn Harrison (one of the funniest and most interesting and most extended I've ever read is in Envy, which I'm otherwise not so crazy about) and that's just the obvious opposition. One could go on all night. Heh-heh.
Quibble three: It's not the feminists' fault that the Wonder Boys can't do sex. It's a culture that wants to keep (mostly white) men in cargo-short diapers and bottles of beer for as long as possible, that celebrates the eternal boy, because they buy more toys and that shit pays off. Of course, should any man decide to kick over the traces and truly pursue his freedom (perhaps by exploring sexuality), that's a no-no. America, Inc. depends on manufacturing a mommy in the background tsk tsking to keep boys in line (for tickets to arena shows), but she ain't me, so stop saying she is. Even our biggest risk-taking artists can fall victim to that system.
Quibble four: I think maybe it's the glimmering of the beginning of white men critiquing their own privilege and position and how that is just barely beginning to shake and reshape just a little bit. So stay with it, guys, and if it means you can't do sex right for a couple of generations, we'll understand. You do a lot of other things really, really well, Mr. Angel David Foster Wallace et al.
Just speaking for myself? You know, I loved Motherless Brooklyn because it was a detective book, y'all! Genre! I'm a simple woman, and I like genre. I've barely made it through any entire books by one of those other Jonathan's or Seth's or whatever dudes with three names because they're not genre, probably. Their books are too hard! Or maybe not, I'm confused. I'm not smart enough for books without sex scenes.
But I have all kinds of patience with all kinds of women's writing. Wonder why? Cause I'm a sexist.
Here's the latest from the library: The Altman oral history, Joni Mitchell bio/critical essay Will You Take Me As I Am?, [books and subjects: flawed and fascinating]; The Beats graphic novel, Dr. Andrew Weil on what needs to change about our medical system, Becoming Jane Eyre, and a couple of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vines. See? Duh.
This is a chant by Sallie Ann Glassman of New Orleans, to Ogou Balendjo, a lwa variant of Ogoun. He is a sort of battle medic who can heal in environments of staggering destruction and from damage caused by toxins and poisons. He is also a healer of children, and is syncretized with Saint George. He brought me great healing once when I needed it, and I thank him and the Pomba-Giras for that healing and ask for him to go where he's needed. The chant calls on him to go into battle against disease and give us the victory of health.
Pou Ogou Balendjo, Lwa kap geri avek fe. Konbat maladi. Ede nou nan batay kont maladi. Geri nou. Ban nou la sante. Aksepte ofren'n nou. Antre non ke nou, nan bra nou, nan jam'm nou. Antre vin'n danse avek nou.