Saturday, 26 November 2011

If Haruki Murakami is nominated for a Bad Sex Award what about You?

Every year the Literary Review Bad Sex Awards shame writers of the highest calibre with a selection of intensely non-fibrillating scenes of copulation. I have yet to make their list. Not for want of trying however. I remember my early writing involved a lot of 'members' and 'openings', but now the sex act, well, for fear of falling into cliches or getting too swept away with the erotic moment, I try to take away what I might be tempted to pop in. Take last week, for example, I was setting up a sex-scene-that-fails-to-happen in a short story I am working on: when I reread I realised I had leapt to the table like Britney Spears in laced-up boots and a g-string. Yerk!

So the young man did not remove his clothing. The young man had no hard-on. I gave that piece the cold shower.

Interestingly, Rowan Pelling, the admirable ex-Editor of The Erotic Review, asks Why are male writers so bad at sex scenes? (The Guardian, Fri 25th Nov). She notes, I can only posit a theory, but I tend to blame the higher rate of mortifying sex scenes in novels by men on the nature of their fantasies.. ..Meanwhile those women authors who do apply themselves to the hard task of writing about sex tend to do so with veracity and a distinctly grown-up sensibility..

Could this be true? Are women more succinct, more investigatory, more permeating with their portraits of lovemaking?

On the Literary Review's list, we find the much-loved Haruki Murakami, whose new book sits on my table and will nonetheless probably be adored, and Australian Christos Tsiolkas, whose extract involved words such as 'gaseous bouquet' and 'churning compost' and was far too full of odours to be fully read with green tea.

What makes even the best writers go loopy over sex scenes? Can they be forgiven? Is anyone game enough to lay down some text?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

What Lovers Do

A friend last week after a glass of heavy red wine asked me what had been the most romantic moment of my life. Si tu, Caterina. Yes you, Catherine. You're the one who's travelled the world. You lived in Paris, Milan, then the sticky heat of Africa. Tell me. Dimmi tutto.

I hadn't a clue. I looked up at the building with its fluted edges, the autumn wisteria dropping leaves on the stones at our feet, and fossicked in my favourite handbag from a designer friend.

Well? Allora?

The thing is, I don't think I am very romantic. There is a stark, no-bullshit Australian side of me that cringes in the light of too much attention. I remember my ex gave me lingerie at the Xmas dinner table (picture the entire Italian family surrounding a skinny Parigina with Annie Lennox hair). I fled to the bathroom. That was when I realised I didn't understand romance, or romance Italian-style.

However in other contexts I confess to turning wishy-washy myself. I remember collecting a mass of scented petals in a park, driving to my lover's house to spread them on his back as he slept. Disappearing. Wanting him to wake up and say, What? How is this?

And then realise.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What? no more go-go girls?

Over the last few days photographs of a short grim-faced man have been circling about in the press. Raising his eyes to heaven, casting a weary wave behind rain-streaked glass, grasping the veined hand of a tetchy supporter. I even saw a grinning holiday snap from better days - wearing that ridiculous bandana - with a certain British ex-Prime Minister, tossed in with some shots of booby Ruby Rubacuore/Heartsnatcher, an underage job from the recent past.

Is it over? Or is Italy so far down the plug-hole hole there is not a hope of climbing out?

In my novel there are lots of references to go-go girls jiggling their assets on Berlusconi's three television stations, lots of small bald men with Amazonian wives. It was meant to be funny. Well, it is in a brittle sort of way. To think that some pneumatic tits and lips were enough to get a dental nurse into politics. Nothing against dental nurses, but Berlusconi has poisoned the system by making all women into potential slutty bedfellows, and the others well, we've heard his comments about ladies who are not-quite-Venus.

Today I read that in Silvio's world, when asked if they would have sex with the seventy-five year old tycoon, 30 per cent of women said 'Yes'.

He claimed that 70 per cent said 'What, again?'

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ether Writer of the Week!

Despite no hot water and a musty old day I am thrilled! I have finally remembered to check the Ether Books site where I am Writer of the Week! Do check if you'd like. I have eight stories up which you can download, mostly set in Africa where I lived many hot and sweaty years.

A friend asked Which Story Is You? and I seriously don't know. I think there are bits scattered all over the shop, I am guilty of magpie traits - snatching details, hoarding them, forgetting them mostly. No I don't carry a notebook. It would just become so long and chunky and I would waste even more time trying to find something I half-remembered, written at a stop light on the way to piano. Nah.. better to trust the sediment. Here are my pieces:

Pelt - a pregnant Ghanaian woman tries to win back her German man when his estranged wife comes to town.

Cartography - Della swiftly marries Luce, a diplomat widower and follows him to West Africa where she becomes involved with a local painter.

The Severed Reef - Australian agronomist Paul Maddox imagines he wears the face of white unscrupulousnous for his Somali colleague as the country descends into war.

The Brittle Beach - a young au pair who observes her Milanese family on holiday on the island of Stromboli, until an accident happens and she is drawn to the volcano.

Nathalie - Mona's daughter Nathalie arrives from Paris on a visit but their reunion is soured when the young woman is attacked on the beach.

Janet and the Angry Trees - a West African sex worker who becomes a carer for her Italian lover's elderly parents.

The Coptic Bride - Jim has spent a lifetime being chastised by his brother for being gay but finds an unlikely ally in Adam's new Ethiopean fiancee.

Gorgeous Eyes - an international photographer visits West Africa and finds a subject in Margaret's sapphire eyes.

I can't even say which is my favourite. As they say in - what was it? modelling, advertising? novel-writing? - you are only as good as your last effort.