Saturday, August 25, 2012

Best literary sex scenes: writers' favourites | Books | The Guardian

I realised something after I read a post by Edmund White in The Guardian. In literature, well written sex combines the sublime with the grossly physical.

People are conflicted about sex. There's this basic hormonal drive - but also a desire for it to be something more. People fantasize about having sex that's a 'religious' experience. They want sex to transcend the boring, the ordinary.

Erotica doesn't work if it leans too far into poetry - the writing can lack passion and raw energy. The reader can become detached. Same problem if it's just the usual 'docking procedure' you can find in any porn book. 

Something else I've realised. Pornography is just about the sex act. Erotica is mainly about fetishism. The sex act is still there, inside the erotica, but the sex is also transferred onto objects - onto what's going on outside the sex act.

Edmund White

I think the sexiest passages are those about Luc in Alan Hollinghurst'sThe Folding Star. The 33-year-old Edward Manners leaves England for Belgium and a job as the tutor to the 17-year-old Luc. After mooning over the boy for months, astonishingly he falls into Edward's arms. As he sleeps after sex Edward studies his handsome face: "While he slept I kept watch over him - a smooth shoulder, the little pool of his clavicle, his neck, his extraordinary face, his hair muddled and pushed back." This is the romantic postlude. The sex act itself is much more strenuous: "I was up on the chair, fucking him like a squaddy doing push-ups, ten, twenty, fifty ... His chest, his face, were smeared with sweat but it was mine: the water poured off me like a boxer, my soaked hair fell forward and stung my eyes." This sex-writing is convincing because it mixes the sublime with the carnal, the grossly physical with the spiritual – and all of it experienced as a shock, the longed-for consummation that one can't believe is really happening.

Best literary sex scenes: writers' favourites | Books | The Guardian:

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