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The Six Hundred Pound Gorilla

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I debated whether to make this thought a blog entry or try to start a discussion thread. My discussion threads wither and die quickly so I guess I'll discuss it here.
Today, in any entertainment media you select, we are under a barrage of sexual images. Sex predominates. Sex sells. No matter the outlet -- stage or screen (big or small), painting or sculpture, novels or poetry. Sex is woven throughout our modern culture and to an extent we have the glorious 1960's to credit for it.
What I find interesting is the treatment of sex in the novels that I've been reading (American, 1880-1930, blah, blah). These works are written before the liberalization of sex, but I'm becoming intrigued how it sits in the room (like you know who), but it's never explicitly called out or recognized. As I remember reading Henry James, there was always this underlying current in the relationships between characters. Every once in a while I would think, "Why did he say that?" or "What does that mean?" and then realizing it was you-know-who.
The attraction between individuals was always based on something simplistic on the surface -- beauty, intelligence, money -- but over the time relationships take on a complexity and that complexity seems to be lauded over by Mr. G.
In The House of Mirth, a girl is destroyed by a hint of impropriety. In Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, a girl is destroyed by impropriety as a profession, but you still have to understand the venacular of the time to understand the girl has taken to prostitution so that her family can eat. In Sister Carrie, the scandal is that a well-to-do married man throws it all away on a single girl and in the end dies a destitute and broken man. But the gorilla never stands and beats his chest and roars. We understand that when a married man calls on an unmarried woman or young girl and walks through that front door only to emerge hours later, it is inappropriate and we don't need the details of anything that happened behind that door.
I bring it up because as I'm reading The Beautiful and Damned by Fitzgerald, it strikes me that the gorilla is gaining weight. He seems to be everywhere, but Fitzgerald's not pointing at him, not talking about him, he's just there. And it intrigues me that the writing can bring this beast in, essentially make him a character, and never, ever acknowledge that he is there. I think it makes the writing of the time more enjoyable, more artistic, more poetic.
C'mon, buddy, let's give you a bath. Follow the dancing

Updated 12-07-2008 at 11:22 PM by PabloQ

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My Literary Journey

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  1. Virgil's Avatar
    Today, in any entertainment media you select, we are under a barrage of sexual images. Sex predominates. Sex sells. No matter the outlet -- stage or screen (big or small), painting or sculpture, novels or poetry. Sex is woven throughout our modern culture and to an extent we have the glorious 1960's to credit for it.
    Pablo you make an excellent observation. I remember reading an essay by William F. Buckley a number of years ago on how sex had become the background and wallpaper of our lives. I think that's the metaphor he used, background and wallpaper. Of course he was lamenting it. I'm not a prude, but it's actually the opposite of prude when a culture does nothing but obsess with sex. I know the Victorians had gone too far one way, but we have now gone way too far the other way. What does it say about our culture? Doesn't it trivialize sex and reduce its significance. D.H. Lawrence, who was known for his frankness of sex, would be appalled at today's treatment of sex. He would have said we have reduce its power and maening.
  2. PabloQ's Avatar
    Virgil, the real inspiration behind the entry is reading F. S. Fitzgerald. There is great emphasis on the meaning and the value of a kiss. How it is pursued, how it is requested, how it is consented or denied. It's really sweet, but at times the kiss itself seems a metaphor of sex. Anthony Patch in The Beautiful and Damned pushes too hard, kisses too passionately, and is rejected. He spends weeks in isolation and remorse over it. Quite a different time than the one in which we live, but it does contrast with the Victorian age.