Esquire’s article on the lack of sex in novels quotes one of my favorite authors. It is also one of my favorite quotes, ”Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin. It’s the triumphant twang of a bed-spring.” —S. J. Perelman
The Complaint: Sexless Novels
Here in cold February, is anyone keeping warm the old-fashioned way?
One of the stranger acts of literary time travel involves rereading Updike, Roth, and Mailer, the triumvirate that David Foster Wallace aptly named the “Great Male Narcissists” on the subject of sex. Holy Christ! Those cats were freaks!
It’s not that those fellas wrote about sex particularly well. In fact, many of their passages have aged badly. One can almost feel the itchy unkindness of synthetic fibers against the skin.1But they did it more often, more graphically, more honestly, and altogether differently from most contemporary writers. It shocks in its candor, in its generalized, post-Pill, irresponsible wackness. Them freaks weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.2
Today, many writers have largely abandoned sex as an area of concern. There are exceptions. Predictably, the French are still capable of producing an enfant terrible, though in the case of Michel Houellebecq, he is no longer particularly enfant nor terrible. The best writing about sex I’ve read recently comes from England, where Geoff Dyer seems to have a right and healthy attitude about the way these things can work — a little cocaine, some free booze, a chance encounter over a few days in Venice — voilà … healthy, happy orgasms for all!