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Turn on these pages and curl up with this book

Those who don’t see sex — and writing about sex — as an artful strategy, at par with deft diplomacy or predicting chess moves, are either bad pick-up artists or love fools, writes Indrajit Hazra.

books Updated: Apr 24, 2010 00:08 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Granta 110: Sex
Rs 599 | pp 288

Those who don’t see sex — and writing about sex — as an artful strategy, at par with deft diplomacy or predicting chess moves, are either bad pick-up artists or love fools. The latest Granta, simply titled ‘Sex’, celebrates arguably the most underrated aspect of coition and its paraphernalia: intelligence.

More than any piece of writing in this collection, it is the gloriously evocative visual pun on the cover (picture left) that deserves an ovation. The photo by Billie Segal, showing a woman’s purse seen from the top, with its pink fabric interiors folding to mimic a vulva provides a compelling climax even before you enter the book.

Mark Doty’s ‘The Unwriteable’ is an autobiographical piece about the author passing through his youth and ultimately entering his “actual life” as a bisexual. But it isn’t just a plain ‘coming out’ narrative, compulsory for any erotica anthology these days. Instead it is a mini-bildungsroman about being young, being in a relationship, discovering that relationships can coexist, only to discover oneself through the little storms.

Robert Bolano’s little cameo, ‘The Redhead’, is a poetic burst, depicting the nature of sex invested in the form of one figure, whose attraction (in the sense as used in physics) lies in that she will be ‘staying with you’ — unlike with the other vagaries that involve that vicious, silly thing called love. Nobel winner Herta Müller makes a tantalising sex object out of a pipe where German soldiers disappear into in ‘Zeppelin’.

Writer Dave Eggers turns to his illustrative side and brings us ‘Four animals contemplating sex’ — sketches of a bear, a buffalo, a terrier and a penguin — all ‘normal’ but for the fact they have been magically transformed into pre-fornicating beings thanks to the context.

But the piece de resistance has to be Emmanuel Carrère’s ‘This is for you’. It is a palpable story of a piece the narrator has written in Le Monde that he hopes will have a certain effect on his girlfriend who is travelling on a train and reading the piece while he waits for her at the station. This piece is playful and mind-clouding — qualities it shares with good sex. As Carrère writes: “I like literature to be effective; ideally, I want it to be performative... the classic example being the sentence ‘I declare war’, which instantly means war has been declared. One might argue that of all literary genres, pornography is the one that most closely approaches the idea: reading ‘You’re getting wet’, makes you get wet.”