News this morning that relatively unknown Irish author Rowan Somerville is the winner of this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his novel, The Shape of Her, beating off stiff opposition (ooh-er) from a shortlist dominated by heavy-hitters like Jonathan Franzen and Christos Tsiolkas.
So what is it about men and bad sex? I’ve got a few ideas of my own but I’m guessing many of you have thoughts on the subject as well. Is it just the inherent sexism of the literary and cultural world on show in an amusing and ironic way? Or are men predisposed to write awful sex (or to put it more accurately, since most winners of the Bad Sex Award win for descriptions of what they think of as good sex, are men predisposed to write good sex badly?). And if they are, do women write it better? Or do they just avoid writing about it at all?
Apologies for the resounding silence around these parts in recent weeks: I’ve been completely overwhelmed by work and family and the desperate attempt to get the new draft of my novel locked off by the end of August (a deadline I’m about to miss, but we won’t go there). I’m planning to get some stuff up over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I thought I might link to a couple of things I’ve had published or broadcast recently.
The first is my review of Kenzaburo Oe’s novel The Changeling, which was published in Saturday’s Weekend Australian. Oe, as some of you would be aware, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, and despite something of a reputation as a public intellectual in his native Japan, is best-known in the English-speaking world for his fiction. I can’t say The Changeling really set my world on fire, but it’s a fascinating work in some respects, not least in the manner in which it explores many of the same issues relating to the relationship between the writer, their writing and the external world that Coetzee explores in Summertime.
The second is an interview with me and Sophie Cunningham about eReaders and eBooks whcih was broadcast on Radio National last week, and grew out of a session at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival which featured Sophie, Jeff Sparrow, Sarah L’Estrange and myself. I’m always a bit appalled by the sound of myself on the radio, but this one isn’t a bad piece IMHO. You can listen to it via the Bookshow’s website.
As I say, I’ll be back around these parts later in the week. In the meantime you might want to check out the greatest pop song about a writer ever. (A word of warning – it’s pretty definitely NSFW).
Sometimes the juxtapositions the web throws up are just too good to be true, and these two galleries, which I stumbled upon within minutes of each other a couple of days ago, are a case in point. The first is a selection of photos from Translocations, a new book by UK-based photographer, George Logan, which place wild Asian and African animals in the British countryside. The effect is both beautiful and oddly unsettling, rather like the images of escaped lions prowling through ruined London or jackals on the streets of New York City one often comes across in post-apocalyptic fiction. You can check out a selection of the photos at Smashing Pics, or on Logan’s website. Copies of the book are available from Logan’s website as well. Proceeds from the project go to the Born Free Foundation.
And then there’s Awkward Family Pets, the new project from the geniuses (genii?) behind the toe-curling Awkward Family Photos (if you’ve never been, you must). I’m not going to try and preempt the horrors that wait there, but let me just say you won’t be the same afterwards.
Family history is one of those things you should never inflict upon people you like or respect, but this little story I learned last week is too good to let pass. It concerns my Great-Grandmother, Adelaide Bradley, who was run over by a tram on Jetty Road in Glenelg in 1942. Sad, obviously, but it’s difficult not to wonder what the family (who were Church of Christ in those days) were thinking when they drafted her death notice, which read, in one of those delightful collisions of religion and modernity, that she’d “been called to glory after contact with a moving vehicle.”
I’ve spent the last day or so reading Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs, a book I’ve been meaning to knock over for a while. Besides a few of the more-anthologized stories I’ve not read much Moore until now, so she’s come as something of a revelation, not least because of the effortlessness with which she allows her characters to be at once sad, ridiculous and painfully real, a combination which lends the book a luminosity and a wit that don’t often go together. But the line that had me laughing out loud this afternoon was this, awful, hopeless, hilarious out-take from a marriage:
“You emptied the top rack of the dishwasher but not the bottom, so the clean dishes have gotten all mixed up with the dirty ones – and now you want to have sex?”
A few years back I had a friend who claimed her employer was been working on list of officially-sanctioned jokes to be used with clients, a notion so bizarre I was never quite sure whether to believe it or not. Now, via Holy Kaw, comes the revelation that Microsoft has not only formalised the use of humour in the workplace, they’ve come up with a ranking system. Which is hilarious in itself, but only slight less hilarious than the total lack of irony on the part of those who created it.