Great sex writing

This could be the most current my blogging has been in a while, but I
couldn’t let the article I read in today’s Guardian about sex in
fiction pass by without comment.

The article takes the recent Man Booker winner announcement as its cue
for a discussion about sex in fiction, using various long- and
short-listed books as examples of sex writing. There’s an example that
I feel should be added in to the discussion, perhaps to balance the
scales and make the case for not all descriptions of sex being

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall was long-listed in 2009. It was
also the highlight of the Booker dozen for me last year, though I
realise I have still not managed to review it either on my own blog,
or to complete my Booker 2009 challenge notes (which prompts a
predictable note to self). The story is narrated by four different
characters – one of whom is a twin trying to come to terms with the
sudden death of her brother. This strand of the novel contains some
explicit sex writing – writing that made me blush, but that I also
found extraordinarily sensual. What makes it great, in my opinion, is
not that it finds tenderness in the most raw and desperate acts but
that it speaks volumes about the complicated urges that become sexual
desire, sexual need even, which are a tangled knot of the physical,
psychological and mental. I think it’s a wonderful, and meaningful,
illustration that our sexual selves are an integral part of the lives
we live, and that no matter how we conduct our most intimate acts, our
appetites are as much shaped by the public world as seep into it.

Do you have examples of great sex writing?


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