Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I’m back. Sometimes I just need to take a little break from the blog, especially when I’ve got a lot of writing for hire to do. I get a little sick of wrangling with words, even in the lazy manner of blogging.
One of the review assignments I've been working on is a new smutty novel by the wildly popular Eric Jerome Dickey. I had whined to the books editor that I never got paid to read any porn, so when the Dickey book came along she said, “Here you go.” All I can say is, be careful what you wish for. The book is okay—sort—but not my kind of thing, erotically speaking. There is nothing worse than slogging through 400+ pages of sexual fantasy that doesn’t work any gear you’ve got. “Stupefying” hardly describes it.
It got me thinking about books I do find genuinely erotic—or rather, trying to figure out if there are any. I’ve read my share of simple smut, of course. There was a time in my life when I was fond of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books, in all their sadomasochistic silliness. And I’ll admit—I hope this isn’t TMI—that I have always been kinda turned on by the slam-bang novels of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain. I especially like Thompson’s Bad Boy. So much for feminist consciousness.
But true erotic literature, to be worthy of the name, has to do something more than trigger a Pavlovian genital response. It has to stir up some dark, chthonic energy, and at the same time engage your heart, at least a little bit. It should give you a glimpse of the primal source of feeling. It should make you understand how the desire to live coexists with the urge toward death.
Tall order, huh? I pondered quite a while and I could only come up with two novels that do that for me: Wuthering Heights and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. Somehow, I feel that I ought to be able to claim something smarter, edgier, more obscure—but no, I have to confess I can’t think of any book that stirs Eros in me more than those two do. I should go hunt them up wherever they’re hiding in this chaotic house, and let them banish Dickey’s soulless drivel.
Liebesszene, Max Liebermann, c.1926.