Russell Smith on fictional sex
Bravo to Russell Smith for his essay in The Globe & Mail on sex in fiction, and in particular for saying what nobody else ever seems to say about the obnoxious Bad Sex in Fiction Award:
…the Brits give a lot of press to their annual Bad Sex In Fiction Awards, a mean-spirited exercise in playground mockery and repression. It could only come from the Brits, such a powerful dismissal; indeed, the Bad Sex Awards were founded by Auberon Waugh, a political and social conservative, whose stated rationale was “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it”. In other words, it wasn’t bad sex writing he was opposed to, it was any sex writing; sex scenes themselves were tasteless and redundant.
I’d like to add that Auberon Waugh remains chiefly notable, in my mind, for being stupid enough to shoot himself in the chest with a Browning M1919 machine gun while an officer in Cyprus. This, he achieved by grasping and shaking the barrel jacket, frustrated at the gun’s erratic behaviour. Anyone with a good understanding of the internal workings of that weapon would recognize this as beyond dumb, and Waugh’s survival as a failure of natural selection.
But I digress. Smith’s essay is very good, although I object to his preference for the word “pornographic”; that word, thanks to contemporary pornography, carries all kinds of connotations that go beyond the sexual and tip, frankly, towards the pathological. One only has to consider the subtexts of contemporary mainstream porn to see that for literature to become more pornographic, as Smith suggests, it would also necessarily have to become stupid and misogynistic. Let’s stick with “erotic”; there’s nothing wrong with that word.
Anyway, I guess this means I’ll have to read Girl Crazy, in breach of the Literary Non-Proliferation Treaty imposed on me by the authorities following the Great Puppy Purchase of 2010.