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1.03.2010

Why I Like Sex

Just a link to an interesting article in the New York Times, about the growing trend of self-censorship. That is: no sex scenes! Katie Roiphe compares passages from the likes of Philip Roth to Dave Eggers to find the growing trend of men who think they're too good for sex. Writers like Benjamin Kunkel who supposedly speak for a generation of McSweeney hipsters, of which I'm supposed to be part.

Not that I have anything against Dave Eggers. Dave Eggers might be a nice person. He obviously helps people. He's kinda of a social activist of sorts. But what I don't like is the attitude in literature he's started. A quirkyness that now prevails in "my generation's" literature. Not that I have anything against quirkyness. If you open up my diary, you'd see I describe myself as quirky all the time. I am quirkier than a three dollar bill. It's definitely not an issue of quirkyness. It's an issue of hipster style literature. Which is, in turn, a very classist type of literature.

Hipster literature tell of out-of-college 20-something characters, struggling to find their bearings in a world that is newly theirs, but to which, they don't belong.  A.O. Scott sums it up nicely as he describes Kunkel's Indecision as the generational novel:

"His plight, after all, is - for people of his age and background - a familiar one: an alienation from his own experience brought about by too much knowledge, too many easy, inconsequential choices, too much self-consciousness. Bred in a culture consecrated to the entitled primacy of the individual, he discovers that he lacks a self, a coherent identity, maybe a soul."

From this, we get characters who are quirky. Characters who are willing to admit their idiothood as they look inwards at themselves because they have nothing else better to do (have you read Tao Lin yet? His work drives itself through boredom and is perhaps the singularly most annoying voice in contemporary literature; I'm not even going to bother with a link to his site...). It becomes the age of self-conscious fiction. The result is as Roiphe states: "The younger writers are so self- conscious, so steeped in a certain kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even their own sexual impulses; they are, in short, too cool for sex. "

These characters think of higher purposes. The results are always ironic degrees of sadness and hilarity. Sex is not part of the picture.

Which might be well for some. Roiphe even writes of an anecdote where one of her friend trashes a Philip Roth novel because it was pornographic. But, perhaps, pornographic is the point.

Pornographic has always been my point. I remember my boyfriend was mad at me because he thought I wrote too many sex scenes. My professor for my creative writing class thought my writing was too graphic, too meticulously pornographic. "Change it," she had said. "Here it's porn. Make it literary." As if the literary can't be pornographic. But sometimes, sex is the way humans speak. It's the way we live. It's the exciting part, yet it could also be the boring, the mundane. It's what we use. It's the moment we find common ground with another human being in world where we might all be growing further and further apart. Or it might be the moment we find out we are so different from on another, that penises, vaginas, dildos, and strap-ons are the only way we can get our points across. For this reason, sex must be captured. To say sex is not worth capturing, would to make literature very boring. In writing class, we learn that the most central point to a character is his/her desires. Sex is pure desire. Sex is art. To write of sex (and write it well) is get into the nooks and crannies of what it means to be human.

To me, this newer breed of literature ignores sex because it's associated with lower functioning. Why have sex when you can contemplate your life through Ayn Rand? But I bet Ayn Rand had sex...Imagine Ayn Rand, conservative sex bomb! Why talk about fucking when fucking is what you do when you're too dumb of a male that you can't cuddle? Most of all, it's not realistic.

Dave Eggers, etc, doesn't speak for a generation. He speaks for a class who think themselves better for not thinking about sex. But I think one of my favorite title (haven't read it, but it's on my reading list...you know, when I have the money) is Daniel Scott's 2001 collection, Some of Us Have To Get Up In The Morning.  In it, he captures the day-to-day lives of working queer folks. The main emphasis is not queer, but working. I think the title captures precisely what Dave Eggers and Crew don't have to necessarily think about as middle class folks. I think this is why I gravitate towards people like Raymond Carver, I bet he had lots of (drunk) sex.

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