Sunday, March 29, 2009

Diana: The TORO interview


Over at Toro, the Men's magazine, there's an interesting interview with Russell Smith about the writing and reception of his pornographic novel, published just over a year ago, Diana: A Diary in the Second Person. The whole of it can be read here. There's an excerpt below:



Q: How did you approach writing Diana, a memoir of female desire?
A: It was an exercise, really. I enjoy reading and looking at pornography of all kinds, but I was always disappointed by the quality of the writing in so-called erotica. I never understood why it was always written by hacks, and read like Harlequin romances. I wanted to try my hand at it and bring some literary elegance to the genre.

The material – the actual fantasies that inspired the scenes in the book – all came from my female romantic partners over the years. (That sounds boastful – but there were only a couple, actually.) They were what I persuaded them to confess to me in the dark of night. I used in the book the ones that I found most effective when I murmured them to actual women. The book is aimed at female readers, as I knew that they were the only ones, honestly, likely to buy such a book. That’s why I pretended, at first, to be a female author: I feared that women would not trust their arousal if they thought the book to be a product of male fantasies.

Q: What do you think of your sexualized word terrain? Is the book informed by the style of other sexual memoirs?
A: As I say, there isn’t much literature written intentionally as erotica that I actually enjoy. Although I do remember spending a rather excited few days reading Ana├»s Nin when I first discovered her as a student. What I attempt to do in my sex scenes is to describe the mechanics of them matter-of-factly, without too much emotion. It’s when people try to describe the emotions of sex without being clinical about it that they get euphemistic: that’s when they end up with all the "core-of-her-beings" and "proud manhoods" and "fire like spirits dancing in her brain" and all that stuff that wins the Bad Sex Awards.

Q: Do you think there are differences in how men and women are expressing desire in narrative form?
A: Well, yes: men simply aren’t doing it. I mean yes, they do it in conventional terms in their fiction, but they tend not to write entire books of porn. Erotica is a feminine closet.

But as to the differences between male-written sex scenes and female-written ones, no, I don’t believe there are any consistent differences that are trackable to gender. I really don’t believe in such a thing as a female voice or a male voice – those are very dated essentialist tenets which I believe to be philosophically unjustified and actually pernicious. Any talented writer can create and inhabit a convincing character and a real-sounding voice. And gender has nothing to do with it.

Q: I enjoyed your reading from this pornographic novel in Dirty Laundry. You’re one of the authors I thought of at the start, as your writing often involves sexual processes. How does it feel writing with explicit sexual intentions in literary frames?
A: I felt uncomfortable while doing that reading, as several of my co-readers were actual women who were writing about sexual experiences, and there I was, a guy, in front of them, an obvious fraud. I felt – perhaps it was my imagination – disapproval, or at least a certain coldness. I would rather be anonymous and have my gender unknown. But I suppose it will always be odd, for anyone, to have one’s perceptions of sex made public. You will always be judged and probably mocked for what those perceptions are. Everyone’s perceptions are different. And there’s just something about someone else’s sex acts that is just always inherently funny.

1 comment:

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