There is this Famous Author. I actually met him once, after years of being dazzled by his graphic-novel scripts – throat-swelling riffs on Shakespeare, and poignant treatments of works begun by other people, and trenchant quotations from Isaac Newton. (“Are not light and gross matter intraconvertible?”) I was supposed to be making him feel that someone actually knew his work and its context while he ate some rubber chicken and accepted an award, but somehow, I got his back up, mentioning that I was going to buy a book of his that was going to be released next week and read it on a long flight. I guess if you say something is airplane reading that is a diss, only I didn’t really mean it that way, and… well, you want the people whose work you respect for its sensitivity to be, I don’t know, more sensible than that.
I couldn’t read anything of his after that, for years, until my Cute Engineer mentioned a short piece involving the Narnia books; specifically, a story about the aging Susan Pevensie, who alone of her siblings “outgrew” the alternate world of Narnia and became enchanted with “nylons and lipstick and invitations.” C. S. Lewis was a Christian, or wanted fondly to believe he was one (to me, he seems a convinced Pagan terrified by the implications of his Paganism), but in the matter of Susan he had his finger on something that transcends cosmology; the cardinal sin of reducing of the world to trivialities, to narcissistic fascination with one’s place in an artificial social universe. So I was quite agog to see what the Famous Author had made of the subject.
Apparently it all comes down to cunnilingus. Who knew.
I leafed through the story collection in which it was published, lighting on an apparent love story about a married man and his obsession with a mistress who jilted him as a teenager and reconciled with him as a thirtysomething. Supernatural phenomena aside, the whole thing came down to a meticulously described episode of cunnilingus. Who knew.
Sometimes I think certain formal constraints are a blessing and not a curse; James Joyce used to carry a pair of dolls’ knickers in his pocket, one reads, but I doubt we would have been edified by reading much about them. Earth to fiction writers, men especially: honestly, I have figured out the anatomical particulars involved in most sex acts. Moreover, no one is going to give you a gold star because you march under the banner of eating pussy. I am glad that people no longer suffer from ridiculous prudery, but I really think it is time to move on.