He believes novelists today are "much more exposed" than the novelists of 30 years ago, and that the difficulties of writing about sex throw up "more general problems about literature and the relationship the reader has to the writer". But by last night, following newspaper coverage, she had revised her position to say that the judges are now "considering it" on grounds of popular demand. Adam Thirlwell, whose debut novel, Politics, was a startlingly explicit examination of bedroom manners, believes we are living through a "very conservative era" in literary terms. I make emotional commitment because it comes naturally to me. We all know that the new media technologies have caused an undeniable mainstreaming of the pornographic experience but there is a tendency, particularly in the English novel, to want to keep things nice, to identify the pornography as other, as abject, as belonging to an underclass.
In The Finkler Question, Julian Treslove's sex life is, in keeping with the rest of the novel, both comic and sad. Motion was being "semi-facetious" when he suggested earlier in the year that writers had been scared off writing about sex by the Literary Review's Bad Sex award. In bad sex people become hyper-aware of their bodies, the isolation of their bodies, of shame and humiliation. But plenty of authors share the view that writing about sex is difficult, and presents particular challenges — and that sex that might be described as ordinary, or even enjoyable, is hardest of all. Share via Email 'It's very easy to write a sex scene where everything goes wrong,' says novelist Hilary Mantel. Amis makes an exception for Lolita, "because it's such an outlandish and extreme version of the sexual act that somehow gets the hilarity and the horror, without any gross descriptions, and also pays the price morally in a very complicated and satisfying way". But literary sex appears to be on the way out. Of all human activities this is the one that peoples the world. Sladek says it is all "supposed to be lighthearted, not supposed to humiliate", but she is adamant sex in books "just doesn't work, I don't think there are any cases where it works". Now, with the Booker done and the Bad Sex prize coming up next month, he says: It's a bit like why it's so difficult to write about dreams. Are writers too scared of being laughed at? But its stated intention, "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it," manages to be both prurient and prudish at the same time. Literary Review's editor, Nancy Sladek, told me earlier in the week that despite his memoir A Journey having been suggested by several readers, non-fiction it is not eligible for the award see extract, below. It's almost how you would describe driving — very, very specific and exact. With that tonnage of emotion on it, if there is going to be one thing you can't write about then that would be it. Plenty of writers take the opposite view, arguing that it is in the act of having sex that characters reveal themselves most fully. The space between the lines, that's where the reading experience takes place. This is bourgeois bullshit. On that night of 12 May , I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. Some people find it really boring, I like a really good raunchy bit in a book. Updike, incidentally, was given a lifetime achievement award by the Literary Review. Adam Thirlwell, whose debut novel, Politics, was a startlingly explicit examination of bedroom manners, believes we are living through a "very conservative era" in literary terms. Australian novelist Christos Tsiolkas goes further, saying that the attacks by some critics on his novel The Slap as being vulgar or pornographic "bemuse me as they seem to ignore how much of sexual imagination, particularly male sexual imagination, is now experienced through pornography itself. In many ways, I am very emotionally self-sufficient; in some ways, too much so. Even though everyone puts a brave face on it, actually [if you were nominated] you'd feel, 'Oh dear'. If you can make your reader's imagination work, that is much more powerful than saying, he put his hand here and she put her hand there.
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