Friday, September 05, 2008

Her petite pussy lips, his bulging trousers, and the immemorial magnificence of mystic palpable real otherness*

*All genuine quotations, verbatim


I should like to nominate newbie novelist Kerry Reichs, daughter of the more famous Kathy, for the annual Bad Sex Award offered by London's Literary Review.

Here, from Reichs' debut novel The Best Days of Someone Else's Life, is the nominated entry:

I savoured remembering the First New Kiss, knees touching on the couch at Russia House right before last call, and felt a trail of sparks shoot down my hoo-hah highway.

You have to really work on prose like that.

Yes yes, it's chick lit. But still.

33 comments:

Kel said...

Laughing my fanny off! when this post title popped up sublimely into my poised and eager blogroll...ah Americans..gotta love em.

M-H said...

hoo-haa highway? I once encountered a very strange person on and email list who referred to her vagina and labial area generally as her 'hoo-haa', but I thought it was just her. Apparently not. Thanks for the laugh.

Pavlov's Cat said...

As the regular recipient of boxfuls of new fiction both literary and genre, of wildly varying quality in both cases (the best genre fiction is a million times better than the worst literary fiction), I've seen 'hoo-hah' for 'vagina' quite a lot lately. Look on the bright side, it's better than 'vajayjay'.

Just.

Liam said...

Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll.
If someone had told me this morning when I woke up that I'd read this sentence I wouldn't have believed them. I'm still not sure I've read it, and to be honest, I wish I could un-read it.
Jeeves! Bring electrodes, an extension cord and a bucket of salty water.

Zoe said...

I don't know why we don't all say "gineup" like my 5 year old. I think it sounds jaunty and friendly.

It is very hard to write good sexy bits, which is why almost everyone shouldn't.

Tim said...

So that's what Pacino was on about...

TimT said...

The fall and fall of the Second Reichs?

Ampersand Duck said...

hoo-haa sounds like a party favour...

oh.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Heh!

Fyodor said...

"lips"

*sniggers*

Pavlov's Cat said...

Uh oh.

Anonymous said...

clicking on your link to the 'Bad Sex Awards' to find out what they were all about, led me to: "unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels."

Having not read the fictional work in question, I may be wrong, but I suspect that Ms Reich may not qualify.

Kathleen said...

Um...'vajayjay'? I have clearly missed something. But that's okay, I think I'm happy to.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Here you go.

Mindy said...

My five year old likes "Gymo". Girls have gymos and boys have rhinos. Apparently.

meggie said...

FFS? Erk.

Suse said...

Girls have Volvos, according to my youngest.

innercitygarden said...

Suse, do boys have Commodores?

For me the difference between hoo-haa and vajayjay is that the former seems to emanate from women who can't bare to use the real grown up words, and the latter from women who'd just like to make it all sound funkier. I'm not a fan of either, but vajayjay doesn't make my skin crawl.

Hoo-haa highway is a particuarly strange meeting of the two approaches. (My son refers to anything in the bottomular region as "bappy", male or female, toilet trained or not).

skepticlawyer said...

How can you stand to read that stuff, PC? Of course if money is changing hands, I fully understand... but for me, no money, no dice.

Bernice said...

So presumably the hoo-haa highway devolves to road, then lane, then track as one ages? A whole new territory for Google Street View....

Pavlov's Cat said...

Google Street View, now with Special Speculum Shots. Oh, someone stop me thinking abut this, please.* No, from the context I'm guessing that said highway is the connection between her brain [sic] and her, um, vajayjay. You know, lust.

Yes, SL, it's work -- weekly short fiction reviews (short reviews, that is, not short fiction) for the SMH. Probably about half of what I get sent to review is literary fiction, some of which is bad, and half genre fiction, most of which is solidly good in its genre and some of which is brilliant. I get sent more than I can review, so get a fair bit of choice. My ideal is to mix up genres and subjects as much as possible from week to week. Since I'd far rather read chick lit than spy thrillers, I didn't find this one too painful (so much to amuse, intentionally or not, though she can be quite funny) to actually read but I must say I think it's time chick lit writers everywhere lifted their game, and was in fact musing on a post to that effect when I read your comment. I'm guessing that Reichs got special attention from agents, publishers etc because of who she is; it's certainly literary gossip of a sort, and fits the mad American obsession with celebrity.

That said, I quite like (some) bad art. It's interesting thinking about why it's bad, and also quite demanding. And reading four novels a week of varying quality in varying genres is actually a better education in the novel form and its genres, conventions and techniques than I ever got at university, much less school!

But you can't really win (now I'm just spinning off on a wild tangent, sorry) when trying to negotiate the literary/popular fiction distinction (I like both, if they're good) -- there are the people who think they are demonstrating their own superior taste by trashing popular culture, and then there are the people who think they are demonstrating their own PCness by banging on angrily about how neglected popular fiction is (which is actually crap, BTW; it's not) and what awful elitists the others are. Both of which positions completely miss the point about the aesthetics, the psychology, the politics and the anthropology of storytelling IMHO. Apparently Ken Gelder has written an article somewhere about (fellow-)critic Peter Craven and his genre blindness -- can anyone tell me where that is?

*I once had a GP who would say, whenever it was time for another @#$%&*! smear test, 'Right: assume the position.' One of these days I'm going to write a post about the way the position changes somewhere between Melbourne and Adelaide. I wonder what the GPs in Kaniva and Bordertown do.

TimT said...

Is 'genre blindness' something like 'gender blindness', something which people claim to have, but contradict that claim by their words and actions, I wonder? It's an interesting point.

I'm having a take at an interesting (for me, at least) cross-genre writer on the blawg today, Brian Aldiss, having recently got hold of a copy of a volume of SF criticism penned by him.

I wonder where kids get all these words - made up, or heard?

TimT said...

This bit of cross-genre-dressing Laura mentions on her blog sounds like a hoot.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sorry, TimT, not following you -- what words? What kids?

If you mean 'gender blindness', it's an established, common term originating in feminist theory and it refers to the failure of certain sorts of observers, usually those exercising the privilege of belonging to the dominant group but blind to that privilege, to register that they are skewing their choices and judgements towards one gender over another. I note that more recently it's been appropriated by some people to mean something rather different, but those are its origins. Google, in these as in so many other matters, is our friend, but only up to a point.

The term 'genre blindness' was used in the brief description I read of Ken Gelder's article but since I haven't read it I don't yet know what sense he was using it in. I'm assuming he means that Craven judges different kinds of literature by a single monolithic set of evaluative criteria, without taking into account the specific conditions, conventions and values of different forms of writing. But I'd have to check.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Further thought, TimT, makes me think that you were actually referring to 'vajayjay' (see my link back up the thread a ways) and 'hoo-hah', in which case Google is still our friend but only if you have a strong stomach. I didn't realise it was US kiddie slang (which makes it even worse in the chicklit context; yech), as in 'You must never ever put your hoo-hah near Levi's weewee, Bristol ... Oops, too late.'

TimT said...

Sorry, I was a bit unclear there - I was referring to the words Suse, Mindy and Innercitygarden refer to their children using upwards, but obviously that question extends to Hoo-Hah Highway and Vajayjay, too!

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine at uni came up with gondwana (male) and gondwina (female) -- usually employed in a gender-appropriate greeting: "Hey bwana, how's your gondwana?" ("Hey, bwina...?")
Coy

Mindy said...

Mis-heard in my son's case. We were trying to teach him to say vagina, and gymo is as far as he got. Not sure where the whole rhino thing came from.

M-H said...

My son Mat (who is now a fine and witty man in his early 30s) wore specs when he was a preschooler. He hated the specs and used to just take them off and drop them, often when an unsuspecting adult was walking behind him - I got very creative on the insurance claim forms.

Once when his paternal grandmother was staying with us he walked into the living room spec-less. She said severely "Matthew - where are your spectacles?" He looked down in a rather puzzled way, took his thumb out of his mouth, and said "Underneath my penis."

Luckily she was rather deaf, but the rest of us had to quickly leave the room to ROFL in the kitchen. I learned the risks of teaching children the Anatomically Correct Terms.

Pavlov's Cat said...

TimT, back before the days when (some) children were taught anatomically correct terms, I think it was probably the norm for mothers to teach the kids 'inoffensive' euphemisms partly to minimise the embarrassment of public blurting, as little kids are wont to do. A friend once told me that by the time his kids were six and eight they knew three sets of words for bodily parts and functions: the correct words for use at home, plus two different sets of euphemisms -- one set for use around each pair of grandparents.

(Do you have any idea how hard I concentrated on not typing 'pubic blurting' back there?)

skepticlawyer said...

Bad art can be good - especially bad cinema! A mate and I used to have an ongoing routine that involved variations on a 'there is no such thing as a bad giant earthworm movie' theme.

I'd be reviewing all the spy thrillers, of course, so the SMH's readers would get bored of me very quickly. I have never understood 'chick lit' - in fact I failed about 30 pages into the first Bridget Jones.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yeah, see, I think the SMH's readers (their books-pages readers, anyway) are probably an extremely heterogeneous bunch with largely catholic tastes, which is why I try to mix it up. You'd much prefer the novel I've just moved on to, about a high-profile TV journalist who wakes up with a shocking hangover and finds herself in bed with a dead high-profile police hero. I expect the CIA to make an appearance somewhere round page 55.

Ariel said...

I believe the Ken Gelder article on Craven is in Overland. Haven't read it, but someone mentioned it to me last week. Sounds intriguing.

Personally, I'm a bit of a fan of the 1950s-era film technique of having the chaacters go into the bedroom and close the door, or fade out on a kiss. I'd prefer to imagine what goes on between the sheets - unless the sex scene actually advances the story in some way or tells us something about the characters. Maybe that makes be a prude, but so be it.