Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Heading Out to Wonderful"

In addition to the novel A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick is the author of the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel Heading Out to Wonderful, and reported the following:
Of course, it had to be a sex scene. Page 69 of Heading Out to Wonderful turns out to be a lengthy description of the wedding night of Boaty Glass, an overweight 48-year-old man who has just married Sylvan Glass, a virginal 17-year-old whom he has recently purchased for $3000 and a tractor. The book is set in the Shenendoah valley of Virginia in 1948, and page 69 begins “…startled by the vastness her, her expanse of skin, her breasts, her deep pink nipples, the shimmer of her skin, pale and powdery everywhere except her arms and her face.”

It ends: “ He took her hand as they lay in the dark, waiting for sleep, his sweaty palm engulfing her dry one until she pulled it away and rubbed it on the bedspread.”

So, we know right away that theirs is not the most successful coupling in the history of literature. Awkward, inept and short, their lovemaking, it would seem.

I love sex scenes. I am often criticized for having too many of them, but I think, in the telling of a story, that sex is important and should be discussed. To me, we have two basic and eternal forms of communication – talking and sex – and sex is its own kind of speech. It speaks of passion, of affection, of disdain, or a whole gamut of human emotions which cannot be expressed any other way. My characters say with their bodies the things they cannot express in words, just as we do in life, everything from hopeless love to mere hopelessness. There is, of course, joy, but there is also often a degree of fear, of trust and mistrust unspoken but enacted.

And I believe, as a writer, I have a responsibility to write about sex with the same degree of passion and clarity and skill that I would, I hope, bring to the physical act itself. Is it pornographic? Some people would say so. Is it necessary? I would answer emphatically yes.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Goolrick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue