Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll

The SEX: As noted earlier, I've been struggling a bit with writing a good nookie scene. And since the best way to improve your writing is through reading, I've been, uh, studying sex scenes. A tough assignment indeed. I read through some erotica anthologies, reviewed some old Sandra Brown's, returned to one of my favorite scenes in Niffenberger's THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE ("...[she] thrusts her hips back and forth a couple of times. I now have an erection that is probably tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America without a parent."), and flipped through a dozen other books.

Nothing satisfied. So it came as a surprise when, on a whim I purchased Anne Proulx's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (no, I haven't seen the movie) for five bucks at an Indy bookstore in Bethany Beach and was blown away by the sheer beauty and raw sensuality between cowboys Jack and Ennis:

"They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezed the breath out of each other, saying son of a bitch, son of a bitch, then, and easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together,..."

The DRUGS: I'm looking at voices, too. BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT is fiction, but written in two first-person voices, so where better to learn than from powerful memoirs? This last week I've reread James Frey and Augusten Burroughs, two of my faves, scrutinized their narratives (ever realize how A MILLION LITTLE PIECES reads so fast, in part because everything is left justified? Brilliant.) I just finished Anne Kaysen's GIRL, INTERRUPTED, a kind of comp to mine because she and Ben share a touch of insanity and a stint at the same loony bin (Mclean Psychiatric Hospital). The entire book, really a series of essays, questions that blurred border of crazy and normal. My kind of read, especially her wry observation on psychiatric medications:

"Thorazine, Stelazine, Mellaril, Librium, Valium: the therapists' friends. The resident could put us on that stuff too, in an 'acute' situation. Once we were on it, it was hard to get off. A bit like heroin, except it was the staff who got addicted to our taking it.

"You're doing so well," the resident would say.

That's because those things knocked the heart out of us."

The ROCK-n-ROLL: Still reveling in Radiohead's latest, IN RAINBOWS. Every few days, a new musical infatuation; this week, it's Jigsaw Falling into Place. With lyrics like "words are a sawed-off shotgun" and "before you're lost between the notes" coupled with fabulous percussion, how can you go wrong? The song reminds me of a scene in my friend Jimmy's novel DARK SIDE OF THE SOUL, where two souls dance on an angel's keyboard. Really.

The WRITING: It's going, it's going. Finally have a first chapter I like. A lot. At last. So much for our mutual sabbatical... though between poems and query letters, I'm writing PURE and LOVE SONG. Maybe just mixing it up is what I needed. Peace, Linda


  1. Clever organizational trick on this post, Linda! You've got my wheels turning :)

  2. I have a 17-year-old character in my WIP who likens a watershed moment in her life to things as momentus as the towers falling and the release of Radiohead's OK Computer.

    I spent a lot of time at McLean in my former profession. It's fascinating how many people were famous when admitted there, or have become famous since. I'm intrigued to hear what you're doing with it, Linda!

  3. "I've been, uh, studying sex scenes." Your thoroughness astounds me. Great post title Linda. You continue to progress into being compellingly concise.

  4. Hey Greta, thanks for popping in. Yeah, the holy trinity of words in my title DO tend to make folks take notice... glad your head's spinning...

    Mags, howdy. Yeah, I wonder if we ever passed each other on the 115 Mill street campus. Woulda been in the early 1990s for me. I worked with several staff/faculty at Mailman on research involving prescription drug abuse in peds, so I got some exposure to East and the hospital. It was a formative experience professionally, and downright handy more than decade later in writing about Ben's 10-day stay. I'm happy to share the 'Winter' section of BTB anytime...

    Sarah, you just like the rock-n-roll part of the title :^) and I DO hope you've given Radiohead a whirl... hope the writing's going good... Peace...

  5. Oh, and Mags, I'd love to meet your 17 yo protag. My kind of gal...

  6. I'm all for research.

    Tell me you've read Augusten's brother's book? John Elder Robinson? LOOK ME IN THE EYE? He, too, lives in MA. A hilarious writer.