Male Authors and Sex - A Generational Comparison
In November of last year, I spoke ever-so briefly about Women in Art; today's our chance to talk about the men. Did anyone else read Katie Roiphe's essay in this Sunday's NY Times Book Review, The Naked and the Conflicted? It's a long one, but worthwhile. (You may also be able to listen to the essay.)
The short summary is that the most recent generation of male authors has toned down the sex in their writing... there's less explicit outrageous behavior by characters; less attempted titillation of the reader; more innocence, trepidation, and ambivalence.
So... is there a genuine societal return to innocence, or is it in fact the contrary: more free sex in society means that writing about it blatantly has lost its taboo charge and no longer provides the novelist with the drama it once did? Is the "new sex" (or lack thereof) in the more recent novels an improvement, or is it just a new spin on the same narcissism and sexism?
What comes to mind is Franzen's description of one of his female characters in "The Corrections": "Denise at 32 was still beautiful." To the esteemed ladies of the movement I would suggest that this is not how our great male novelists would write in the feminist utopia.
I'll admit that I'm largely punting here: I haven't come to a conclusion of my own yet, nor have I read the full canon of works by these authors so as to make the most informed analysis possible. But I think this article is fascinating. Please go take a look. And if you have any thoughts, I would absolutely love to hear them. But I think I'm leaning towards Roiphe's conclusion:
Why don't we look at these older writers, who want to defeat death with sex, with the same fondness as we do the inventors of the first, failed airplanes, who stood on the tarmac with their unwieldy, impossible machines, and looked up at the sky?
And, of course, I'm not the only one thinking about this: