Dear Friends —
I recently spoke with Kristy Lin Billuni who runs a fantastic website called Sexy Grammar. There you can find tips on writing as well as workshops and private consults that connect the sensual, the sexual, and sometimes the downright dirty with the process of creating beautiful writing.
The fact is: writing and reading are both highly pleasurable experiences. Or they should be. Americans have a long-standing suspicion about pleasure, but the French don’t, and when you read the opening pages of Haruki Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicle, you get — for starters — a dirty phone call from a mysterious woman. And that’s just the beginning. We have alot to learn from other literary languages and traditions — other ways of thinking about pleasure and thinking about what matters.
With those things in mind, here’s a link to my talk with Kristy, (including a video of my reading of a “sexy” poem from How Formal?), as well as a brand spanking new little story — generated by an email sent to me by mistake by a wonderful friend, who is also a writer.
She didn’t want to tell him she couldn’t come have sex with him at the Gainesville Holiday Inn because she had something wrong with her intestines. And she couldn’t talk to her husband the doctor about it either, because he – well, she wasn’t really talking to him these days. So she went and saw a different doctor in a far away part of town. Since she was Jewish she picked a Chinese doctor because she’d been to a talk at the library once by a Chinese poet who said that the Jews and the Chinese had the most in common of any peoples, because they were so committed to texts and to textual traditions.
Not that she was. She had flunked Hebrew school.
But still it made a sort of sense, and so she got into her yellow station wagon and drove to Dr. chin’s office, and there were a lot of Chinese people there which made her nervous because she mostly hung out with white Jewish people, but she kept on whispering to herself – textual traditions – and went up to the desk and got out her insurance card.
Dr. Chin talked with her and was very nice and as it turned out wrote poetry himself as a leisure activity,
Diverticulitis, he said. You need a liquid diet, and – he peered at her over very elegant steel reading glasses – you need to stop having sex with men you don’t care about. This is diverting the intestines as well as everything else.
She blinked. Excuse me, she said.
The doctor said you need to stop having so much extra pepperoni and eating so much bread that you don’t care about. It’s diverting the intestines as well as everything else.
What else is being diverted? She asked. I just want to be clear.
I’ll need to do more tests, to ascertain that. He said. Go home, liquid diet for 3 days, and then I’ll call and follow up with you.
She went home. I DO care about him, she told the rear view mirror on the way home. He’s just not a man I want to marry. But I do CARE. I’m not a strumpet or a slut or whatever.
The mirror didn’t answer.
So she went home and drank liquids. But then she was going to have to call and cancel the hotel.
Which brings us to the beginning of the story. The thing that she had to do.
She hated the phone. Those disembodied voices, and you could never tell what anyone was really thinking about you – how they were REALLY reacting. In person you could tell what they were really thinking. Did they hate you? Love you? What?
She always knew with her husband. Until she didn’t, and then suddenly – or rather not suddenly, rather over the course of several years and several children – she stopped caring.
Then came the man at the hotel. He actually worked there, until he got a better job at a different hotel, but that one was fancy and so even with the employee discount it was too expensive for a fuck (she said it, she thought it!), so they kept on meeting at the Holiday Inn in Gainesville because after all they weren’t going to use the gym or the coffee shop!
Why did she do it?
It was a diversion – a pleasure of a sort, she supposed.
And also she thought he liked her, you know, thought she was beautiful.
But this intestine thing…. how could she explain it?
She would have to lie.
But he would know. They always know. She is a terrible liar. That’s why she’s stopped speaking to the husband. So she won’t have to lie.
But there it is. There it was.
Her stomach was killing her.
The minutes ticking by.
She picked up the phone. She called the hotel. Cancelled.
She called the man.
I’m sick, she told him. I’m really sick.
There was silence, and then he asked – in the softest possible voice –
what was the matter?