Milk Glass Market and New American Complement Each Other—and Their Neighborhood
Last year, I interviewed writer Steve Almond when he was in town for a smutty reading series called Booty Call. He said this: "Any person with an ounce of passion inside them is a complete horndoggle, in thought, if not act." He also said, "Most people are so freaked about writing sex scenes that they go over the top or straight to clichés. But they shouldn't be writing about sex. They should be writing about characters in emotional danger—who just happen to be naked."
Almond has plenty of opinions about sex writing (read more of them!), so it's no surprise to see him weighing in on Kate Roiphe's much-discussed New York Times Book Review piece, which takes our current generation of "young male writers" to task for being too cuddly, and less willing to write about sex than previous generations of white American male novelists. Almond hits the predictable talking points in critiquing Roiphe's essay (why are there no women or minorities on her list of important young writers; has she considered that our culture has changed; has she ever actually read David Foster Wallace), and eventually concludes that it's the "nasty little critics" who're to blame for a contemporary dearth of novels that are both "acclaimed" and sexy: "For the most part they [Wallace, Eggers, et al] keep it above the neck, and that makes the critics — who tend to be bigger prudes than anyone — happy." He also includes a reading list of books that are "full of sex and equally full of heart," whether the critics like it or not. (Sorry about killing sex, everybody.)
It's been fun reading the interclusterfuffle around Roiphe's piece, but I think ultimately the money shot belongs to Salon, circa 1997: "The problem with commentators like Roiphe is that the same half-cocked, extravagant assertions that make them such good copy also make them easy to dismiss."
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