I don’t want you to think I’m a pervert but ever since I wrote favourably about a self-published teenage blog novel called Eyeleash, the author keeps sending me the prolific outpourings of her fertile female imagination. She publishes these as e-books and gets rave reviews from her readers. I think she doesn’t really need any further endorsements from me. That’s good, because I don’t really want to endorse erotica. However, I’m not sure that what Jess writes really is erotica.
It’s very hard to write about sex. It can be very complicated emotionally and very crude physically. There may be many unknowns. You risk looking ridiculous or even perverse. You lay yourself open in ways that you may not realise.
But it’s always worth persisting. Sexual desire is a primary motivator. Sexual energy permeates all human dynamics. When you are writing about people you are writing about sex.
It’s not necessary to be explicit. But if the complicated emotions about sex are to be convincingly implicit, it is essential that they are understood.
Owen Wister understands sex very well, I think. I don’t know much about him except that he married his cousin and had six children but I didn’t need to know even this to know that he has thought a great deal about sex.
I am reading his novel The Virginian. It is about a cowboy in the Wild West but at its heart is a tender love story. Informing this love story is a deep literary sensibility and a mature understanding of conscience and desire. This is why it is a fascinating story and a literary classic. I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it.
Jess also understands desire. She writes about it much more explicitly and some of her stories have even been banned. I haven’t read the banned ones. She doesn’t even know why they’ve been banned. She thinks it’s because of the incest, which is, you know, like having sex with your cousin or something like that.
But one thing she does understand is how it feels to want something that everyone tells her she can’t have. She longs for the forbidden fruit. And she has put a great deal of thought and energy into writing about that desire.
Forbidden fruit can be a metaphor for many things, of course. Sex is just the most obvious kind of desire. But Jess clearly has another driving desire – the desire to be published.
In this she is a model for many young and ambitious writers. She doesn’t wring her hands and curse the publishing industry. She just publishes things. She writes and she puts her writing out there. It’s imperfect. It’s raw sometimes and a little rough around the edges, but it’s full of brio. It’s very contemporary. It has personality and energy. It deals with modern issues in a very modern way. And for that I recommend it to anyone who wants to write, even if they don’t want to write about sex.