It just goes to show you... Or, at least, it just goes to show me... you can’t second guess your readership.
When I wrote, yesterday, about having a crack at the “Fifty Shades of Grey” market, I was joking... OK, I was teasing, I was positing an hyphothesis. I don’t do it all that often, but everyone else is talking about that particular book, so I thought I’d jump on the band wagon. The thing was more a cynical exercise in having 50 shades as a label on my blog than it was a genuine attempt to engage with the material. I even knocked out a sentence or two of parody at the end of the post, just for fun.
Perhaps I was wrong.
I got lots of messages of encouragement. Lots of people said that if I wrote it, they would read it. Lots of people said there was nothing wrong with a bit of well-written erotica, and I can’t say I disagree with that.
Write what you know, they say.
And there’s the rub. Let’s just suppose I did know anything about sex, I’m still not sure I’d want to write about it. Part of the point of being a writer, for me, at least, is to emerse myself in all the stuff that interests me, but which I might not have any first-hand experience of.
I want to write about elves and space warriors. I want to write about murderers and the criminally insane. I want to write about the truth. I’m not sure where I’d find the truth in an old-fashioned pot-boiler. I’m not sure where I’d home-in on the universal significance of a sex act without being tempted to speculate on the banality of it. For me, I suppose that sex is only, ultimately, interesting to those taking part.
All the best books are about sex and death; all that is most affirming about life is wrapped up in those two themes. We have known it since Ovid, never mind Chaucer or that Johnny-come-lately Shakespeare. I’m just not sure the best way to tackle the themes of sex and death is to write about people indulging in various sex acts. That doesn’t seem to me to be the point.
It’s like all those wonderful actresses who say they’ll never take their clothes off, until they find that most extraordinary of scripts combined with that most charismatic of directors, and they decide that it’s all worth it, that the plot demands they hang their tails out in the wind.
If or when I have an idea that absolutely requires I describe a series of sex acts, I’ll let you know, and I’ll give the writing my very best shot. Until then, satisfy yourselves that I probably wouldn’t have been terribly good at it.