Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Canadian Writers Don't Wear Underwear; or How To Tell If It's A Good Sex Scene

Being a Canadian writer means going briefless. No boxers, no Chocky's; no slips, petticoats, or shorts. Crotchless panties are OK as long as they're red or black.

There's a famous anecdote about Stephen Leacock tearing the crotch of his pants in a badminton game, and bending over suddenly to retrieve the birdie. His fellow players stood in shock, their eyes wide as one large testicle descended through the gaping hole in Leacock's slacks. Leacock, noticing the precipitate decline in athletic chatter, lowered his head between his knees, noticing the errant object of his guests' attention.

"Christ, Stephen," one of the players said. "I didn't even know you were pregnant."

They all had a good laugh, and, when things had calmed down, someone asked the Orillian satirist if he was perhaps a little behind in his laundry.

"I never wear drawers," Leacock is rumoured to have said. "They stifle the spirit."

Good writers just don't wear underwear. A professor tells a story of visiting Alden Nowlan. The latter was sitting at his desk, composing in the nude. "Don't you have any clothes, Alden?" the professor asked. "Sure," Alden said, "but I want to be closer to my words."

That might sound a little strange, but there's something to be said for complete honesty. Too much Canadian writing reads as if the writer's last orgasm came via a long walk in the desert. That reminds me of a line in one of Susanna Moodie's settler narratives; a line in which she desribes the impact of a drought on her husband's strawberry fields: "I had to come" Moodie writes, "it hadn't rained in weeks."

A friend who wrote a book about a trek through the Canadian arctic claims that the region deprives the writer of sex. "All erotic thoughts vanish on the ice; in the whiteness of the place. Not unlike Rosedale."

Which brings me to the question of how to judge the quality of a sex scene in a book. A friend was reading Barbara Gowdy's Mister Sandman a few months ago, and he describes the sensation as follows: "I started feeling something; something strange. Finally I looked, and, sure enough, my penis had shrunk."

"A good sex scene," this friend says, "is one that gives me an erection. I think that's a fair way to judge it. For women, I'd say it's a good sex scene if you feel like doing your husband's laundry."

That's just his opinion, and there's no reason to adhere to it. But the possibility of being aroused by literature is one of the artist's greatest "ins."

Bernard Shaw never wore BVDs. His dick was out all the time. Why then would Canadian writers do a 180 and button up? Too much is said of a writer's "magical" prose. Name one magician you'd like to fuck.

John Metcalf is one of Canada's greatest practitioners of the sexless story. A critic once observed, "Metcalf's fiction has all the erotic appeal of a long bus ride down Weston Road. If a Metcalfian character even attempted sex, one gets the feeling he would struggle to open the jar."

And that, sadly, is Canadian fiction.

No comments:

All Posts On This Site Are Intended As Juvenalian Satire. If They Veer Into Horatian Satire, That's OK Too. Just, Please, Don't Take Them Too Seriously. PhD Students Can't Afford Libel Suits. CUPE Doesn't Cover Court Costs.
Site Meter