When You Are Old

July 13, 2020

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats

1. Because I’ve devoted perhaps eighty percent of my adult waking hours to thinking about sex, and it seems dishonest to pretend otherwise in my work.

2. Because human beings are never more alive to their own hope and shame and fear than when they are naked and aroused, and because the same must therefore be true of our characters, who are nothing more than poorly disguised versions of ourselves.

3. Because I’m really tired of seeing sex used to sell SUVs and underarm deodorant and crappy light beer, rather than being portrayed as a natural and sometimes even holy human endeavour.

4. Because I have accumulated over the years such a tremendous surplus of sexual humiliation that it seems stingy of me not to re-gift some it to my readers.

5. Because I happen to agree with Freud’s naughtiest disciple, Wilhelm Reich, who argued that a true political revolution would only be possible once sexual repression was overthrown, which pretty much rules out the Tea Party as a true political revolution because, boy, is that a movement that needs to get laid.

6. Because I am now married with two small children and thus writing about sex often constitutes the closest I get to having sex.

7. Because President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did have sexual relations, and while I could care less about the big phony scandal that story became, I am interested in the sweet and deranged version of love that passed between them. Aren’t you?

8. Because I’m really tired of having to listen to well-meaning religious folk misquoting God about how the rest of us should use our genitals.

9. Because both my parents are psychoanalysts – and despite what you are all now thinking, which is basically, Wow, you must be a really crazy person, which is a very interesting thought for you to have, by the way, and something we might want to talk about a bit later in the session – the one lesson my parents managed to impart, as I lay those many afternoons on the analytic couch that was, in fact, the only piece of furniture in our living room, is that our libidinal drives are not some bright new user option, but an essential part of our beings, an inborn riot of wants and counter wants that we can never control entirely. And because, as a writer, I’m interested in the loss of control, in the danger of forbidden thought and feeling, it strikes me as utterly foolish – just from a practical perspective – not to write about sex. Why skip over the part almost guaranteed to teach you something new about yourself?

10. Because I’m tired of living in a culture that allows children to fire make-believe Glocks but freaks out at the first sign of a naked boob.

11. I just really love being able to write off lube as a business expense.

12. Because our best writing resides in the senses, and sex invokes all five of our senses — at least if you’re doing it right.

13. Because, though I watch pornography, and am terrifically involved with it for about two and a half minutes, I am most often made sad by pornography. Not simply because it involves the self-exploitation of people who probably have suffered a good deal of misfortune, and not simply because porn stars can perform in manners that often seem like physiological, geometrical, and even gravitational impossibilities (and thus make me feel like the abject sexual nebbish I surely am) but because porn stars are actors being paid, most often, to simulate pleasure. They drain sex of its single most intimate aspect: the vulnerabilities that bring us to the act in the first place, the drama of our imperfect bodies as we seek to make a communion of our desires.

14. Because I believe literature’s central purpose is not to pretend we don’t have bodies and their consequent needs, but to make us feel less alone with these needs.

15. Because the Puritans themselves were — don’t kid yourselves — total horndogs who wanted nothing more than to tear off those black robes and suffer a spiritual crisis. And because when I write about sex I am writing, ultimately, about a dream that begins with the Puritans: that we the people of this violent and troubled kingdom will at last forgive ourselves the lust and loneliness the reddens our blood, and will seek a final remedy in the warm temple of one another’s bodies. Who’s with me?

Steve Almond
Why I Write Smut: A Manifesto

require to be united

July 13, 2020

When I saw the couple get into the taxicab the mind felt as if, after being divided, it had come together again in a natural fusion. The obvious reason would be that it is natural for the sexes to co-operate. One has a profound, if irrational, instinct in favour of the theory that the union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness. But the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness? And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her.

Virginia Woolf
A room of one’s own

the physiology of fear

July 13, 2020

That’s because only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear – the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness.

H.P. Lovecraft
Pickman’s Model


July 12, 2020

Some men never think of it.
You did. You’d come along
And say you’d nearly brought me flowers
But something had gone wrong.

The shop was closed. Or you had doubts —
The sort that minds like ours
Dream up incessantly. You thought
I might not want your flowers.

It made me smile and hug you then.
Now I can only smile.
But, look, the flowers you nearly brought
Have lasted all this while.

Wendy Cope


July 12, 2020

We’re the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
We’re crazy for pizza
With hot pepperoni

We run all the rackets
From gambling to vice
On St Valentine’s Day
We massacre mice

We always wear shades
To show that we’re meanies
Big hats and sharp suits
And drive Lamborghinis

We’re the Mafia cats
Bugsy, Franco and Toni
Love Sicilian wine
And cheese macaroni

But we have a secret
(And if you dare tell
You’ll end up with the kitten
At the bottom of the well

Or covered in concrete
And thrown into the deep
For this is one secret
You really must keep.)

We’re the Cosa Nostra
Run the scams and the fiddles
But at home we are
Mopsy, Ginger and Tiddles

Roger McGough

I saw a casual lover for a while; his name is Brian.

Before Brian and I had sex, he said to me, “We should have a safe word.”

“How about ‘Stop, I don’t like this,’” I suggested seriously.

He paused, looked unconvinced. “But what if you say that but mean the opposite? How will I know?”

“I will never say ‘no’ and mean ‘yes’” I replied, already getting turned off from what little foreplay we had done. “’No’ never means ‘yes.’ And shame on anybody who thinks otherwise.”

He looked at me with his broad, gooby face. I noticed for the first time that his eyes crossed just slightly.

“But fine,” I said. “How about ‘submarine.’”

He smiled and nodded. “No” was too harsh, too direct; “submarine” was cutely out of place, and therefore fine.

Jen Corrigan
You like that baby? The myth of feminine mystery


July 12, 2020

The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.

Cornelia Funke


July 12, 2020