#Amreading Kureshi, Dermansky, and Nguyen. Am pondering sex in novels.
I just finished reading Kureshi’s The Nothing. The protagonist sits on his wife’s face. Or else, he reams out her arsehole. My sense of smell would not allow me to participate in either scene, and I would certainly not get off on it. Maybe the wife didn’t either – Kureshi doesn’t say if she did. Perhaps she (that is, the woman he imagined) was a masochist and in need of degradation, and those acts had nothing to do with sexual gratification.
Now I’m reading Dermansky’s The Red Car, and her protagonist provides blow jobs and does sixty-nine, on the beach, on a couch, in the backseat of a car, and in some bushes in a park. Maybe that didn’t have anything to do with sexual gratification either. The author describes it as being an essential effort, like trying to do well on SATs.
Doesn’t anyone have sex for pleasure anymore? Or because they are attracted to their partner? No, that question is incidental.
“Please don’t break up with me,” he said. “I need you.”
And, according to Dermansky, she obliged and didn’t.
I wonder if Kureshi’s protagonist would have gotten off his wife’s face if he had asked him nicely.
But really, I think Viet Thanh Nguyen got it right: Dating in America isn’t about sex. It’s business, he says in The Sympathizer. “A male and a female set a mutually agreeable time to meet, as if to negotiate a potentially profitable business venture.” It’s about investment and gain, whereas old-fashioned romantics see it as courting loss.