So there’s this recently-released anthology of sex stories called Coming & Crying, which was funded by a well-received Kickstarter project. I came across it while developing my own project on Kickstarter, and from the start I was perturbed by the editors’ stated intent, which is (partly):
We want to produce this book because we want to read it; it’s something we’ve been looking for for a long time and haven’t found yet. Compelling writing that doesn’t skip over the interesting parts, writing that is willing to go there, to be brave and to dwell in it, the way few published authors have. … The lack of good storytelling about sex in print feels ridiculous, bizarre.
The links in the above quote go to a video where the editors of Coming & Crying read some particularly heinous sex descriptions from respected male authors. I think I understand what they’re getting at – the British magazine Literary Review does an annual Bad Sex in Fiction award where they gamely pick on sex scenes by popular writers. (Here’s a choice line from the most recent winner: “…I laughed out loud, sperm still gushing in huge spurts from my penis, jubilant, I bit deep into her vulva to swallow it whole…”).
I’m well aware that there’s a lot of bad sex writing out there. But a “lack of good storytelling about sex in print”? That seems willfully ignorant, and even insulting to the many accomplished writers out there telling stories that attempt to give their readers a boner and/or explore the twisty back staircases of human desire (and yeah, I’m including myself here).
I put off mentioning this because I don’t fancy dumping on somebody’s project, however that project is intended. I know and respect some of the writers in it – in fact I respect all involved, editors included, because it’s ballsy to put oneself out there. And I’m not passing any judgement on the content of the book – I haven’t read a word of it.
But a few days ago I read Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, and I was blown away by how utterly soaked with sex it is, and how in its descriptions of sex it’s uncannily perceptive and honest.
Here are just a few of the things that happen in The Last Picture Show (and I list these at the risk of reducing them to base acts; in context they impart eroticism, poignancy, and humor): 1) High school boys go out to a farm and take turns fucking a cow. 2) The middle-aged wife of the gay, closeted high school football coach experiences her first orgasm with one of the boys on the team. 3) A young man travels to Mexico and has a strange, sad encounter with a pregnant prostitute.
The Last Picture Show was published over forty years ago, and it features coming and crying in equal and substantial amounts. But it’s just one example. From the erotica anthologies of Susie Bright and Richard Labonte to the novels of Dennis Cooper, there’s a wealth of brave, intelligent, and intentionally-amusing sex writing out there, both classic and contemporary. I warmly encourage anyone, including the editors of Coming & Crying, to get out there and read it.