the lawyer writer

sometimes legal                     sometimes literary                     sometimes not

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Literary Smut and Street Psychics

nerve.com had the good sense to name its new weekly award for quality literary smut "The Henry Miller Award." This I approve of, and I like to think I played a hand in it as I once wrote an article for nerve.com about Henry Miller. Of course, when you turn in a piece of literary criticism to nerve.com, it always has to be dirtied up. "Put in more quotes," said my editor. You know the kind he meant. Thank God it's a pay site, because otherwise my parents might find it. I mean, I felt good about the writing, but after nerve got done with it, it felt kind of--well, cheap and sleazy. Like nerve, basically.

Anyway, I'm glad they named it "The Henry Miller Award" rather than the "The Anais Nin Award." I like both Miller and Nin for being intimate and confessional without losing sight that they are essentially speaking to an audience whose attention they still have to earn. (Not many writers do that anymore. It seems like as long as you're being self-deprecating, you have complete license to keep the camera lens trained in close-up focus on your own face. Trust me, it's no less egotistical). Both Miller and Nin were always aware of the reader. Miller, in his stories, made up a "Miller persona" who, despite the same name, had different traits and experiences than he did. And Nin was so careful about her readership that she edited her own diary for print. Sure, it's still self-involved, but I respect her for it; she was trying to make it more interesting to read.

Back to the point. I like Nin, but her sex scenes always made me feel some Eastern European existentialist film director was shooting the whole thing as an arty underground film. Everybody's bored, the action is removed. They're stories, like fairy tales. Miller is more direct. He likes a good fuck. But even then, the physicality and brutishness of the experience don't detract from the inherent spirituality of sex.

I don't think the nominees for The Henry Miller Award are that good, incidentally. But maybe I'm picky. I happen to like dirty books--some without literary quality, some with--more than dirty movies. (Probably because the people are a lot more attractive in your head than onscreen. And you don't have to worry about some feminist anti-porn argument because nobody is being exploited. Except in your head). The last really good, really literary sex scene I read in a contemporary novel was in Ian McEwan's Atonement (starts on page 127, best part of the book). I'll let you know if I find a better one. I haven't looked very hard lately.

On a completely unrelated topic, I've been getting stopped by quite a few psychics recently, just as I'm walking by them on the street. I don't know what it is. They always tell me that there's something in my face, and I should call for an appointment immediately. One actually told me I had a very unusual aura. I told her it was the blue hair. The one who stopped me today seemed very serious and believable. She said "A man named James is going to be very important to you." I'm almost sure that it was James, but there's a slight chance it may have been Jason, because she had an accent. This gave her a cool gypsy-fortune-teller vibe, but also made her a little hard to understand. Anyway, I said "great, can you give me his number?" But no dice. "He will find his way to you in his own way," she said. Then she handed me a card and told me to come by and she would light some special candles for me.

What I think--and I've clearly given this some thought--is that she didn't say James or Jason, but Jameson's. That is, not "a man named James/Jason is going to be very important to you," but "a drink named Jameson's is going to be very important to you." That my future is linked to a drink makes perfect sense. Hey, James is a nice name, but I've always trusted (wisely) men who drink a) Jamesons or b) Guinness. (Oooooh. Spooky that she knew that). Unfortunately for my theory, she would also need to be in the habit of referring to quality whiskey as "He." This, alas, may not be likely.

So, anyway, I have a little collection of psychic cards, and it's very tempting to go find James or the reason for my unusual aura or what exactly is in my face that I don't know about. But I think we all know that the only time I'll ever do this is late at night, when I'm with a girlfriend and we're blind stinking drunk. We'll pay somebody $20 apiece to tell my friend that she's creative, and tell me that a dark-haired man will fall for me. Which, as we know, is what they tell everyone who shows up drunk at midnight waving money. I will take her seriously and swear that I'll come back in the morning so she can cleanse my aura and find the right crystal to hang around my neck. In the morning, however, I'll just wonder why the hell I do these things.

But the answer is obvious: to write about them later. Duh.

9 Comments:

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