Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sex in Literary Fiction 2

In my last blog, I promised an example of a sex scene from a literary novel that I think is done well. Here's an excerpt from Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall:
"He puts his lips to her left nipple, flicks it with his tongue. She murmurs. It's become singular, his mouth on her breast and her response to it, the exhaled murmur, the miniature seizure he can feel along her body, as if she can't quite believe that this, this, is happening again. He has a hard-on now. He can't always tell, he doesn't really care, when he's excited on his own and when he's excited because she is. She clutches his back, she can't reach his ass anymore, he loves it that she likes his ass. He circles her stiffening nipple with his tongue-tip, taps the other one lightly with a finger. Tonight it will be mainly about getting her off. This often happens, has for years--it reveals its form, on any given night (when did they last fuck anyplace but at night, in bed?), usually decided up front, by who kisses whom. This one's for her, then. That's the sexiness of it."
The scene goes on. It's actually about three pages towards the very beginning of the story and I think it does a great job of establishing who these characters are and their relationship to each other. There is a routine to their passion, but you the sense that the intimacy is no less enjoyable for the familiarity. It will be important later for the reader to understand the intricacies of this long-married couple's love for one another and Cunningham has found a way to encapsulate it in three pages, right from the beginning. I think he manages to be graphic without being gratuitous.

But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

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