Saturday, February 19, 2005

Eww, Jonathan - that's gross.

Book #13 is The Corrections, by the ever-adorable Jonathan Franzen, whose picture on the inside book cover looks like it was taken mid-wink. Which, he really does look like one of those men who will say really serious things and get you all thinking-up, then, when you least expect it, drop the most subtle wink in the world. I love it.

Anyways, the book was: not bad. Although I'm pretty sure it's hardly worth a reader's guide. But let's put aside thematic discussion and discuss one particular passage.
    On the first day of August, moments after Don Armour's two-week vacation started, he and Denise doubled back into the office and locked themselves in the tank room. She kissed him and puts his hands on her tits and tried to work his fingers for him, but his hands wanted to be on her shoulders; they wanted to press her to her knees.
    His stuff got up into her nasal passages.
    "Are you coming down with a cold?" her father asked her a few minutes later, while they were driving past the city limits.(375)
So I've read my share of sex, whatever, but that passage kind of made me want to die. It was definitely infinitely worse than anything in the first 200 pages of Gravity's Rainbow (which I began reading and then lost somewhere in New York; $19.50 library fine).

But I don't want this post to be an endless reiteration of ews. Let's talk about grossness in literature/grossness as a literary device.

Because my English definitely contends that it is a literary device. Like I said, we just finished reading Fifth Business, and there were definitely some writhe-inducing passages, namely the war scenes. But if we ever mentioned this in class, or talked about it, the first thing she'd say was "If that makes you feel squeamish, then it's a credit to Davies."

I'd always sort of secretly disagreed with that. I think there are many emotions that, if a book provokes them in a reader, are a "credit to the author" - sadness, anger, peacefulness, &c. But I never thought squeamishness was one of them.

After reading that passage, I'm not so sure. Because it wasn't only the event that made me shudder- it was the way Mr. Franzen described the event. If he had written "Some of Don Armour's semen got up into her nasal passages and ran down," I would have made a face and moved on. But her father asked her if she had a cold! All of a sudden he had rendered me aghast.

So maybe it was sort of a credit to the author. I don't know. I took a shower after reading it, though.