Famous Authors

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.

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4 thoughts on “Famous Authors

  1. I’m afraid I have to admit to total confusion. Maybe it’s because I can’t imagine Susan getting that sort of service performed upon her. Nor do I wish to. Are you saying that instead of actually talking about Lewis’ work, he went all porno?

  2. Well, it was a fictional riff about the later life of Susan as the only survivor of her family, and up till the last it was as excellent as I remember the author’s other work (honestly, I’m not mentioning the name because I’m not interesting in getting a lot of infuriated fanboys and -girls who’ve searched on his name bombing in here to shout at me about it).

    All the porny stuff occurs in a dream had by another character who is the last to speak to the aging Susan before what is clearly her death. It reads as something of a nose-thumb at Lewis’ dogmatic belief, which always struck me as a “protesting too much,” and a sly wink at the appeal of the White Witch (some of his other fictional villains are properly horrible and vile, but the Witch has a grit that is hard not to admire). There are implications about trusting yourself to any supernatural guardian, whatever their press cuttings, and about the mutability of archetype. All worked for me until this detour for a gratuitously detailed and rather silly interpolation of interspecies oral sex.

    Maybe some readers found meaning in this, but it had the effect on me of someone who taking issue with things that have been done in the name of Christianity by scrawling genitalia on an altarpiece — it just seemed childish and embarrassing, especially to someone who never bought into Lewis’ religious subtext but cherished his keen sensitivity to the way people actually connect with one another in a host of ways having nothing to do with sex. I do believe that some of the things he had to say about friendship, and loyalty, and loss, and courage, may have kept me sane as a child. (The author of this piece has made me weep more times than I can count, almost entirely in drawn-story scripts, and clearly cherishes a love for the same heart-catching magic, the yearning for the “other,” that Lewis devoted himself to so eloquently — which just makes the whole thing more sad and baffling.)

    Now, I have seen a model for a sculpture that shows a naked Mary Magdalen, all engulfed in her unpinned hair, at the foot of the cross with her arms flung around the Chirst’s thighs and her face buried at the level of his groin, and while it’s jolting, I didn’t find it tacky. It wound up all kinds of ideas about the convergent ecstasies of sex and death, and the question of what the Magdalen might have offered (accepted or otherwise). You can do explicit sex and religion, but it is an iffy business.

    Eventually I’ll stop scratching my head and see if anyone discusses this elsewhere in a way that might make sense of it, but turning randomly to another story and finding the supernatural doings detour into yet another porneriffic description of genital nomming made me wonder if there was some sort of preoccupation here I hadn’t known of before.

  3. Two stories can give that impression, but it’s only two stories. As one who enjoys said activity while failing to survey modern fiction, I can see falling into the same trap myself when writing a story, entirely unconscious of the obsessive and somewhat juvenile picture it would paint of me. Oh well.

    • Yeah — in the same collection there is a Sherlockian riff and an hommage to Bradbury that are as evocative as the writer’s best.

      I didn’t realize how much of a foodie I was until someone pointed out the assorted repasts in my couple of silly novels. But then, most people eat three times a day — food, anyway.

      I’ve noticed overall that writers who choose to include explicit sex in their narratives — sometimes it serves a definite function in the building of the story line — will exhibit a certain repetitive style. Colin Wilson’s I-wish–were-this-studly heroes are always pinching women’s nipples, which improbably makes them swoon with desire. Possibly writers should do an apprenticeship writing actual porn, in order to make them conversant with some variation.

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