Re: Core competencies

1

She disrobed and he gazed upon her naked bosom, which he was in no condition to describe, because his heart was pounding and the blood fell from his head and all he could think was "My God, my God, there's a better than 80% chance I'll get to touch those tonight," and so it was, and so he died, upon that happy, happy bosom.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-20-14 10:48 PM
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Your private diaries don't count, ogged, until they've been published.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-20-14 10:57 PM
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3

"Ogged: An Erotic Life."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-20-14 11:27 PM
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Call Me By Your Name is, eh, erotic in its thrust but...I can't quite figure out how to talk about it. It's like emotional porn, I always want to say, but who knows if that means anything. It's certainly a good book. Meanwhile I remember the sex as well written though I haven't read it in years and the one scene that immediately comes to mind is perverse in an "I can't quite believe he wrote that down" kind of way. And whatsisname is straight and the story and sex are gay so way to go, whatsisname. Aciman, that's it. Andre Aciman. Way to go, Andre Aciman.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-20-14 11:56 PM
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It's like emotional porn, I always want to say, but who knows if that means anything.

It means I knew right off that you were talking either chick lit or something gay.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:07 AM
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6

Really, Waugh named his kid "Auberon," did he.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 1:33 AM
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Evelyn Waugh was a bad, bad man in so many ways. I once met a son of Auberon who went by Septimus. I didn't ask how many siblings he had...


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:01 AM
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8

Wasn't it Evelyn Waugh who ostentatiously ate three almost-impossible-to-find bananas in a row during the war in front of his hungry children?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:08 AM
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9

"I don't think we should take Waugh with us, sir," one of his fellow officers said before the Salerno landings. "He's an ineffective officer, the men don't like him and apart from anything else there's a risk he might get shot."
"Well, we all run that risk."
"Oh, I don't mean by the enemy.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:16 AM
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Did anyone else ever read the The Winshaw Legacy? I don't remember anything else about the book, but there's a scene where a writer is writing and revising a sex scene and completely failing at it that's the funniest thing ever. I can't find quotes on line, but the bits that have stuck with me are:

She raised her left eyebrow alluringly.... No. She raised her right eyebrow quizzically... No. She raised both eyebrows, the left alluringly, and the right quizzically...

and

Her nipples stuck out like two glacé cherries... Like three coins in a fountain... Like a sore thumb.

It goes on for a couple of pages.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:17 AM
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9: "As I said, we all run that risk."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:22 AM
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It goes on for a couple of pages.

Laydeez.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:23 AM
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Her nipples stuck out like two glacé cherries... Like three coins in a fountain... Like a sore thumb.

"...Like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies"


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:26 AM
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10: I did actually (UK title "What a Carve Up") - not a good book but that bit stuck in the memory. There's a David Langford short story ("Answering Machine") that involves a writer stuck in a cottage trying to finish the novelisation of a terrible horror film - apparently based on true-life experience.

And I love the bit in (I think) "Gaudy Night" where Harriet Vane realises without enthusiasm that she has got to the bit in her novel where the publisher reckons there should be a bit of romantic business, and wrestles joylessly with it for a few pages before sending the telegram "TELL BOOTLE ABSOLUTELY REFUSE INTRODUCE LOVE INTEREST - VANE".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:26 AM
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There's a novel I read in high school which had a pretty good sex scene description in it. I think it was William Kennedy's Legs.

I was too unsophisticated at the time to realize that it was about sex, and asked about the passages in class. Everybody else knew what it was about though. Embarrassing.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:29 AM
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8: I read something like that in a profile of Auberon.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:31 AM
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Of the passages in the linked article I didn't think the Suri passage or the Oz passage were bad -- insanely over the top, but that's not necessarily bad. Beckman's criticism of the Oz passage that the "bedroom has disappeared" is silly -- people have sex in the dark often with closed eyes, -- the bedroom does disappear from their minds. And his conclusion about the virtue of precision is false -- he wouldn't praise a writer that described the physical acts of sex with total precision.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 8:02 AM
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18

I endorse this post! I often think the "bad sex in fiction" obsession is just an excuse to group-shame expressions of desire that are not necessarily meant to be The Universal Expression of Lust. What makes sexy passages work, if they do, is their non-universality. For me, that often means I'm thinking, whoa, that had not occurred to me before, and I'm not sure I'd like it... and then OK, yeah, I can definitely see the appeal.

I have some vague memory of reading Pet Sematary when I was 12 and there was some scene (before the horror starts) when the man jerks off his wife in the tub with a loofah glove and I was like, holy shit.

I have not yet read, but have been lent, Nicholson Baker's Fermata, which a friend suggested as this sort of not-pornographic book with hot scenes. But I've had it on my shelf for a year and really ought to read it, especially since that friend doesn't live here anymore. I feared disliking it and having to be like, meh.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:10 AM
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18.1 is spot on about this award business just being an excuse for a bit of juvenile giggling. Though there is also a tendency for these scenes to involve even more overwriting than the rest of the book. Three-star stuff, in Cold Comfort Farm terms.

Fermata is pretty unpleasant, vicious stuff, if I remember rightly. I wouldn't recommend it. Not written by a man who likes women (or people of any gender, really).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:18 AM
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A Gibson character's words (in Idoru) on the decor of a Japanese love hotel seem apposite:
"You know, there's plenty of ways to make sex ugly, but it's really kinda hard to make it this ridiculous."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:19 AM
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21

I enjoyed the sex scene at the very end of The God of Small Things.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:21 AM
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22

The Travis Mcgee books all go into detail, some badly but I think some pretty well-- of, course, I can only remember which books have the unpleasant passages.

Closely Watched Trains has a nice scene with rubber stamps.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:22 AM
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4: Call Me By Your Name had probably the most memorable sex scenes I've read as a non-virgin (before I had sex, almost any sex scene would thrill me) -- made me feel like I was missing out, being so darn straight.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:27 AM
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I admit I've only read a few iterations of the Bad Sex awards but most of the time I've thought that, yeah, the writing is indeed pretty bad. But I suspect AWB is right about the specificity thing (one of the reasons I was hesitant about including Cigarettes is that my only detailed memory of any of the several sex scenes in it is one in which all that happens is that a man verbally abuses his lover whom he has previously encased in quick-setting cement (we are to believe that more would have followed this but Plot intervenes)—there are less extreme/more consummated examples too, which I can't remember in any detail, but they do combine non-universality with a determined lack of floweriness in the prose. Cigarettes, incidentally, is a very good book.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:30 AM
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my only detailed memory of any of the several sex scenes in it is one in which all that happens is that a man verbally abuses his lover whom he has previously encased in quick-setting cement

Hott. Wait, no it isn't.

Is that even a sex scene in any meaningful sense? That's just a bloke shouting at a block of concrete.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:37 AM
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On the Waugh subthread, Sandy Glen's obituary is on point. The problem was that Glen was much younger than Waugh and also frequently, maddeningly, in the right.

For 10 hours on each of the three days after their arrival, they carried supplies up a glacier made treacherous by a thaw. Glen shot a seal to roast over a wood fire but, when he announced that he was going to shoot another, Waugh gave him a lengthy lecture on the sacredness of human and animal life...At one point, as the party crossed a stream, Waugh and Lygon found themselves swept into a raging torrent. Waugh briefly feared for his life, but they managed to crawl ashore. "If I hadn't joined the Church of Rome, I could never have survived your appalling incompetence," the writer spat at Glen.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:38 AM
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The other thing is that good sex in books is not necessarily hot because it is a realistic how-to for reënactment. If we do these things in real life, they aren't necessarily even sexy sometimes. I was thinking of Story of the Eye, which is pretty gross to me if we're thinking about doing the things represented, but some of them as a reading experience are rather titillating. (Many of them go a bit far afield for me even as fantasy, especially the bull-testicle and egg parts, but I can see why someone else might get off on it.) The hard thing then is figuring out what you actually do want to do IRL. Do I actually want to reënact some of the things I have found sexy in lit/porn? Maybe some of them? But I often don't know until I'm in the moment. I was recently in a situation in which I was offered a fantasy for reënactment and was kind of like, well, I don't actually think we'd get away with that without being arrested, and I kind of like having no criminal record, and... Basically I was a wet blanket about the whole thing.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:43 AM
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I was recently in a situation in which I was offered a fantasy for reënactment and was kind of like, well, I don't actually think we'd get away with that without being arrested, and I kind of like having no criminal record,

Sometimes, it's more titillating to leave the specifics to the reader's imagination...


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:49 AM
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Pausing mid-act to push a small child out of a high window would be both morally and ethically dubious.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:52 AM
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I liked the flying sex scene in one of the Hitchhiker's Guide sequels, but I wouldn't want to try to reënact it. It's bound to look silly if it turns out that I can't actually fly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:54 AM
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re: 18.last

It is fairly pornographic. I mean, it's good fun, but the book is largely about the sex scenes. Some (female) friends of mine who shared a flat together as undergraduates used to read it out loud, when drunk.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:54 AM
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re: 31

Good fun, in the sense that I hope you aren't meant to take the narrator as at all admirable. What he's actually up to is pretty objectionable, if it wasn't wrapped up in the whole McGuffin of the book, and if it wasn't intrinsically silly.*

* someone basically has an amazing super-power, and he uses it for nothing more than being a perv.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 9:56 AM
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There's also, if we're talking about good writing about sex, a difference between good writing about sex and successfully titillating writing about sex. I mean, well written sex between fictional characters is, depending on the book, very plausibly sex between people you aren't particularly attracted to, either doing things you wouldn't enjoy if you were doing them or things that they're not particularly enjoying while they're doing them.

I wouldn't call it memorably great writing, but, e.g., there's a description of dull, perfunctory marital sex in Nick Hornby's How To Be Good that's obviously not up for a Bad Sex award, but no one's ever going to think of it as a hot sex scene -- it's a not-particularly-titillating part of the novel.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:06 AM
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30. They're supposed to be doing it on the wing of a 747. At that altitude it would be about -60 degrees. Um, no thanks.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:07 AM
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35

Maybe it was landing?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:08 AM
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36

28: this is why "The Secret History" had the best sex scene of all time.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:08 AM
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31, 32: I read Baker's even-more-pornographic Vox, and was impressed by how unerotic an experience it was. I don't remember it as being particularly offensive, exactly, but it was a hundred or so pages (it was short) of explicitly described sexual fantasy that never hit anything that struck me as remotely arousing. Kind of a depressing experience.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:09 AM
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34: I think there was an explicit note that the same mechanism that allowed one to not worry about gravity worked for cold and oxygen deprivation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:10 AM
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36: Or any of Jane Austen's novels.

Incidentally 28 was me.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:16 AM
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37: Yes, I had a similar reaction.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:17 AM
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Is that even a sex scene in any meaningful sense?

Farber! Unfogged hath need of thee.

I mean, sure, why not? They both get off on it and that's why they're doing it, and if not for the plot intervening they would have moved on to more conventional couplings. It's the beginning of a sex scene anyway.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:25 AM
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22: I remember the rubber stamp scene! And the follow-up where the character's superiors are concerned that, because the stamps are in German, the act amounts to a degradation of the German language. (I think lurid once took a Central European lit class where this, and probably Švejk and some movies, were adduced as examples of the specifically Czech fascination with the rear.)

Also, the separate sex scene a couple of pages before the end of Closely Watched Trains was certainly positioned for maximum impact.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 10:36 AM
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I read Baker's even-more-pornographic Vox, and was impressed by how unerotic an experience it was.

Yglesias-on-Klein action doesn't do much for me either.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 11:09 AM
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44

There must be a niche market for wonk-on-wonk slashfic. Probably mostly about Krugman, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 11:26 AM
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45

Wonk, wank, wunk.


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 11:43 AM
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45: That did it for me!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 11:56 AM
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made me feel like I was missing out, being so darn straight

Well, yeah, sorta!


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:04 PM
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48

Paltrow vs Stewart, November inning


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:11 PM
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49

My mother made that occasionally. It's not half bad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:17 PM
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Martha Stewart would destroy Gwyneth Paltrow in ten nanoseconds flat, are you kidding? No contest whatsoever. Then someone would write porn about it (assuming that hasn't happened already).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:20 PM
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51

50: Are you picturing a wrestling match or a bake-off?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:23 PM
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Then someone would write porn about it (assuming that hasn't happened already).

That reminds me that today I became aware of the existence of both the "Cum for Bigfoot saga" and Someone to Cuttle.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 12:25 PM
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49: I used to make a British version of that in university using ginger nuts. Because of the amount of cream involved it was a rare extravagance on a student budget, and thus utterly delicious. I tried remaking it recently and was disappointed at how pedestrian it actually tastes compared with my memories.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 1:50 PM
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Kind of surprisingly to me at least, Paul Krugman appears nowhere on AO3. There is one Chris Hayes/Ezra Klein.

The most popular pairings involving pundits:

Anderson Cooper/Keith Olbermann (113)
Stephen Colbert/Jon Stewart (94)
Rachel Maddow/Keith Olbermann (38)
Ana Marie Cox/Rachel Maddow (18)
Stephen Colbert/Anderson Cooper (9)
"Stephen Colbert"/Jon Stewart (7)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 2:06 PM
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Have you searched for Krugthulu?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 2:09 PM
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There must be a niche market for wonk-on-wonk slashfic.

Mine is a niche taste.


Posted by: kermit roosevelt, jr. | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 2:12 PM
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Ana Marie Cox/Rachel Maddow

What a nice thing to learn right before the weekend.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 2:13 PM
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51: hardly matters.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 3:12 PM
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54: Ana Marie Cox isn't a print journalist, though, is she? Nor is Hayes.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 3:14 PM
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Why isn't it A2O3? If `of' is counted, shouldn't `an' be?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 3:41 PM
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What "an"?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 3:52 PM
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And when they use an article, it's `the'. lmgtfm.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11-21-14 6:38 PM
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