Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sexy reading

I picked up Granta's sex issue a while ago as it seemed to feature even more than the usual lot of great and interesting-to-me writers. And, yeah, I guess I was feeling kinda sexy that day.

The Roberto Bolaño story, "The Redhead," is taken from Antwerp, so if you have a copy of that book, you don't need to search out this anthology for completeness. Barely 2 pages.

On the basis of the excerpt presented here, I've determined that, much as I loved The Keep, I have absolutely no interest in reading Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad. Zilch.

Similarly, there are a number of other authors I will not be seeking out.

After reading Tom McCarthy's story I've pushed his Remainder a little higher in the list of books I mean to get to real soon. I'm definitely interested in reading more of Natsuo Kirino, and possibly Victor LaValle.

Sex is, I think, hard to write about, and probably best tackled obliquely.

(William H Gass tackle the subject in On Being Blue, which was reviewed thus: "It's about sex and about language and about the language of sex, and how we're failed by language in writing about sex, and how we fail sex with language.")

It's a huge subject matter, of course — the coming of age stories, the sexual identity stories, the longing for it, the absurdity of it, or the futility of it, or the disappointment of it, or the necessity of it. So very rarely the sexiness of it. And most stories about sex, in any of its complicated manifestations, I don't really care for, I've finally decided. (Except Houellebecq — Houellebecq fascinates me.) Most reading is about getting inside other people's lives, other people's heads, but when it comes to sex...? Maybe because it's so intensely personal, maybe it's the one thing where you have to get inside your (my?) own head first. (And maybe I see Houellebecq trying to do this? Grapple with it inside his own head, I mean.)

Only one entry to my mind qualifies as erotic, and it was a pleasure to read, and that's Emmanuel Carrère's "This Is for You." It was first published in a literary supplement to Le Monde in 2002 (available online, in French), as an open letter to his girlfriend. Ah, the French! You'd never find a North American newspaper printing any such smutthing.

You can read more about this piece in terms of its tackling a taboo as well the performative function of language (about Carrère's comparing the power of a statement like, "You are getting wet," to the effect of, "I declare war." (I almost wish I was doing a Linguistics PhD thesis on sex talk)).
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