This is Where I Leave You This is Where I Leave You question


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Should writers try to describe sex?
Terzah Terzah (last edited Oct 29, 2014 11:03AM ) Oct 29, 2014 11:03AM
My friend Amy's review of Tropper's book and my own experience of choosing NOT to finish it prompted me to make a discussion topic of this question. I've long felt that NO writer, no matter how skilled and empathetic, can write sex. Over the years, authors from John Updike to Colm Toibin (a writer I love) have made me cringe with sex scenes. I'm an advocate of doing the literary equivalent of panning the camera away from the bed when the "action" starts--I loved the way Marilynne Robinson handled sex discreetly in Lila--of course it happened, but it's relegated to its proper place. We all have good imaginations for this sort of thing and don't need help from writers in the form of excruciating details and terrible similes to describe the experience. And surely the fact that the Guardian has a "bad sex award" (http://www.theguardian.com/books/bads...) vindicates my position. Anyway, maybe I'm just a Puritan....Hoping for a light-hearted and funny debate about this! :^)



I was thinking about reading the book but I am not a big fan of sex scenes either. Would you recommend it, still?

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Terzah Laura, I did not like the book overall, and the sex scenes didn't help. But many others did like this book and I'm weird (I didn't like Gone Girl eith ...more
Dec 21, 2014 11:28AM · flag

For me, the sex scenes in this book were really well-done because they were about Judd, not about sex. I like sex scenes that further the plot or illuminate the characters. Literary sex for sex's sake is as bad as real sex for sex's sake.


Have you read Cheryl Strayed sex scene that takes place againstt a rock on the beach in her memoir, Wild? In my opinion, it's one of the best sex scenes written. I agree that badly written sex scenes are uncomfortable. I also think that sex is an important part of most of our adult lives and that they can tell us quite a bit about a character. In my own book, Kingston Court, if I removed the sex scenes, I truly believe readers would miss out on the evolution of my characters. The same goes for The Lover, by Marguerite Duras. We learn so much about her main character in her love scenes.

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Terzah Hi Holly--I haven't read Wild (it's on my list), but I'll keep that in mind when I do. I have read The Lover but it's been years--I do remember the wh ...more
Nov 29, 2015 12:31PM · flag

Sure, if the story calls for it. Although, "describe" is not how I'd say it.
The real question should be, if a writer can't write about sex well, should he or she write about it. In that case, my answer is a resounding "No!". Of course, that is all in the eye of the beholder. Erm mind of the reader!
I found This Is Where I Leave You to be quite crude regarding the sex scenes and plain old crass across the board.
I've read sex scenes that I thought were well done, without gynecological detail (that is too much for me). I've also read barest nuances that were very powerful. In one of Diane Mott Davidson's Goldie Schultz books, Goldie and Tom are dancing and all Diane writes is that Tom's pupils dilate and they go upstairs. She did more with those two details than many authors can do with page after page of description. While I enjoy her books, I wouldn't say her writing skills are exceptional.
It is about quality over quantity and nuance rather than level of detail.


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