August 14, 2009

"Writing about Sex" by Wallace Shawn

"For whatever reason, and I don't remember how it happened, I am now what people call "sixty-four years old"and I have to admit that I started writing about sex almost as soon as I realized tht is was possible to do so- say, at the age of fourteen--and I still do it, even though Iwas in a way the wrong age then, and in a different way I guess I'm the wrong age now. Various people who have liked me or cared about me- people who have believed in my promise as a writer--have hinted to me at different times in my life that an excessive preoccupation with the subject of sex has harmed or even ruined my writing. They've implied that is was sad, almost pitiful, that an adolescent obsession should have been allowed to marginalize what they optimistically had hoped might have been a serious body of work. Meanwhile, people I don't know very well have tended over all those decades to break into a very peculiar smile, one I recongnize now, when they learn that I've written something that deals with sex--a winking smile that suggests a trivial, silly, but rather amusing topic has been mentioned. I suppose it goes without saying that James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and others wre expanding the scope of literature and redrawing humanity's picture of itself when thy approached this subject at the start of the century. But by the time I cam along, many of my friends were embarrassed on my behalf precisely because the topic I was writing about seemed so closely associated with an earlier era."

From Harper's. Read it. It's brilliant.

3 comments:

Ryan W. Bradley said...

great! i love wallace shawn... though that last movie he wrote was a stinker... have you read "How to Write Sex" by Steve Almond? that's a fav

pb said...

I'm not sure if I've ever seen a Wallace Shawn movie, although I'm aware of him having acted in some films. I may know that Almond piece- was it on Nerve? Not sure. I just like how even Shawn gets shit for writing about sex.

Ryan W. Bradley said...

Shawn co-wrote My Dinner with Andre, which is amazing, and he's written a bunch of plays.

The Almond piece has shown up in a few places, I'm not sure where, it's pretty hilarious.