18 January, 2010

Causing angst

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag goes head to head with her uncomfortableness with depictions of casual sex in a review of How Beautiful the Ordinary:
I've got severely mixed feelings about [the anthology]. My conservative side is screaming that the depictions of sex are too blatant for teenagers, while the side of me that recognizes reality points out that kids know about sex already. And anything that will lead teens to a better understanding of themselves and others is probably a good thing...'A Dark Red Love Knot' by Margo Lanagan—The Highwayman is reimagined with a different motive for the ostler than love for the landlord's daughter. This is the first story that my conservative side screamed loudly about, as the ostler and a soldier share a moment.
This would be the moment:
He had me up and down and round about. I cannot tell you how glorious it was, or how confusing, my God. I could not tell, did he love me or hate me? For one moment he was savage at me behind with his claws in my hips and such oaths, such talk in my ears as I’d never heard uttered, saying what he was doing and what he would do, and what kind of filth was I. Then the next he was wound his hot nakedness all around mine, and drinking long drafts of kisses out of my mouth and saying Who are you and Where have you come from and No don’t answer. Be a mystery to me a lovely mystery my darling.
Or thereabouts. Squirming yet? :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd somehow missed that this existed but have already ordered a copy. I remember reading and rereading the Highwayman in elementary school, it was so evocative and sexual, it haunted me for years.

19 January, 2010 01:25  
Blogger Tegan said...

Yup, that was the moment. Definitely squirming. But the rest of the story would be weaker without that graphic explanation of motive.

19 January, 2010 01:27  
Anonymous L person Melbourne said...

Hi Margo,
I have been thinking about such things recently and I'm at work and don't have the ready references with me... but essentially I have been working up a thesis that women do not write about sex well (generally). Specifically I'm referring to adult novels / stories etc and was reflecting because I was reading an Irish Mann-Booker prise winner (a collection of stories - not the novel she won the Booker for) and I was left slightly annoyed in that I thought she (and some others I could mention) have developed a modern tendency to apparently think that referring to sex can take the place of writing about it well. So, I was pleased to see that you were making an effort - not that I thought that this little piece was particularly graphic or specific - but then you are also hampered (I think) by the YAF tag.
All the best,
L person in Melbourne.

19 January, 2010 09:16  
Blogger Among Amid While said...

Jennifer: I studied The Highwayman in primary school, hadn't really thought about it until I heard Loreena McKennitt's version, which gave me chills up my spine! Then Michael Cart asked me for a story for this anthology, and with a slight twist, it became one!

Tegan: Hi! I thought you were very honest in your review. And it's always healthy to take a good long look at the things that repel you. Well, I think so, anyway. :D

L person: I think that's a very strange thesis to pursue - I'm thinking Linda Jaivin, Krissy Kneen, Charlotte Roche just off the top of my head. Why go after women, though? Plenty of blokes write excruciatingly badly about sex, too. Also, it's very easy for the sex to take over a story; I figure if Anne Enright (or any other author)'s leaving out the sex, or only mentioning it in passing, they're doing it for a good reason. There is only so much story-juice to be got out of a graphic/detailed sex scene, after all. (I thought Enright dealt superbly with her heroine's sexual realities in THE GATHERING.)

19 January, 2010 09:46  
Blogger Among Amid While said...

Just to be clear - those 3 names are women I think write WELL about sex.

19 January, 2010 09:48  

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