The other day was one of those days I decided to be lazy and spend all day in bed reading and writing. I dozed off for a few hours and woke up to a bed scattered with papers, worn down spines, and indecently askew book jackets. It was like a book orgy. The thought amused me enough to spur a rather serious internal debate on what books I would make sweet love to and what books I’d give a fake number and never talk to again.
BOOKS I WANT TO BANG
1. Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings
What more could a girl ask for than being treated like a lady in the streets and a freak in sheets? Edward Estlin has that particular dynamic down to an art with lovely romantic poems such as “I carry your heart with me (I carry in my heart)” and dirtier gems such as “I like my body when it is with your body.”
Bonus: His prose is straightforward, and that honesty keeps his romance devoid of twee-ish sentimentality and his lust devoid of the creep factor that usually accompanies someone writing about how much they want to bone someone else (I’m looking at you, James Joyce). A generous dose of humor and willingness to color outside the lines totally seals the deal for me.
2. Anything by Rainer Maria Rilke
Do I even need to qualify this with an explanation? Beauty is beauty and we are biologically programmed to love, lust for, and want to get down and dirty with beautiful things. There is no one who writes more beautifully than Rilke. I can’t even narrow down a particular volume to get my 19th century groove on with – the only thing I can do is just to collect his novels, poems, letters, and his goddamned grocery lists! Spill them all out onto my bed and I’ll take care of the rest from there.
Anything by Sloane Crosley, ever
Sex should be fun and Crosley’s books would be insanely fun in bed – witty and fresh, never dull or boring. Plus, in one chapter of her first book, I Was Told There Would Be Cake, she states that she has never had a one-night stand; not because of any moral qualms standing in her way of strings-free sex, but because the boys she bring home always end up hanging around for a year or two afterward. Now tell me that doesn’t mean the girl is great is bed!
4. Jonathon Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated
In book sex equivalents, Everything Is Illuminated would be my First. Everything I had read before was only a hand job in the backseat compared to the experience of reading this. I was 12 and it was eye opening. My parents had all the usual classics (The Brontes to Austin to Shakespeare to Dickens), and I had torn through them all with enthusiasm, but they tamed and paled in comparison to my first taste of modern literature. Foer used experimental techniques that – when I read him now – come off as a little contrived or overdone, but at the time I was dazzled. A willingness to experiment is almost always a good thing in bed and in literature, and being lucky enough to encounter that in a first time experience can set the stage for a lifetime of boundary stretching in both areas.
And then there are those mysterious bad boys that I will flirt with, fantasize about, but allow my common sense and a healthy dose of fear to intervene before anything too serious happens…
BOOKS I WANT TO BANG, BUT WON’T BECAUSE I’M TOO SCARED
1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I would sleep with his essay collections. I would totally bone his non-fiction. I would even do dirty things to his coverage of John McCain’s campaign trail. But Infinite Jest is… different. It’s big. Not that that’s a bad thing! It’s just intimidating. Like, I’m just not sure if I could handle it. It’s smart, funny, complex and interesting. Lord knows it’s an experience that can change your worldview if you let it, but it will take at least a month just to cram the whole thing in. During that space of time I would have to watch new books go by untouched, abstain from signing into my amazon.com account, and avoid my favorite bookstores like the plague – the temptation to stroke strange spines and pick up a fresh, new, uncomplicated distraction would be too strong to resist. I just don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment.
2. The Condemned by Noah Cicero
The Condemned is dangerous. The Condemned is painful. The Condemned is the S&M of book sex, because reading it hurts in a way that’s coupled with a kind of pleasure that can’t be found anywhere else. When I read it the first time, I kept putting it down; trying to walk away, then running right back to it. Once I started, I couldn’t stop until I had seen it through. It’s vicious and brutal and beautiful the way that ugly things are beautiful: by the nature of their truth alone. I read The Condemned start to finish in a matter of hours, but it stuck with me for much longer than the time it took to read. The acidic sparseness of the prose burned just under my skin, the kind of fire that can’t be calmed by external forces but must burn itself out of its own volition.
And finally: the books that I would talk to if stuck in the corner at a party somewhere, but would totally pretend to have a boyfriend if they tried to come on to me.
BOOKS I DON’T WANT TO BANG AT ALL
1. The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith
I tried to love it. I really did. I read it on the metro, in public places, between my classes – I just never progress very far. This is significant, because with most books, I’m obsessed immediately. I take them home, read until I’ve finished, then come up for air and food and the sleep I opted out of in favor of a few more pages. Unfortunately, that never happened with The Autograph Man, and I’m unsure why. It was kind of like being set up on a blind date by a mutual friend; all the external characteristics of a good match were there, but the chemistry just never materialized. I gave it a valiant effort, then a polite effort, then a perfunctory effort. And then I just gave up.
2. Anything written by Judy Blume, ever
Judy Blume novels were one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood (clearly, I had a charmed life). Because my mother banned them (for poor quality of writing and lack of taste) I was dead set on getting my hands on at least one them. Resourceful even at a young age, it was only a matter of time until I was successful. I can’t even remember the name ended up getting, but I do remember that it almost immediately let me down in the way that only something that was supposed to be rebellious but ended up being lame can. Kind of like that druggie kid I dated my sophomore year of high school. And guys that you want only because they’re taken/ emotionally unavailable/ your mom hates them. They’re more fun in the pursuit than in the actual acquisition, which makes sleeping with them an act of stubborn pride more than any lasting attachment on your part. Better just to admit your mistake and back slowly (or run) away from the young adult section.
3. Serious Russian Novels
This covers a wide variety of really classic, excellent pieces of writing that I will probably (maybe) attempt to read all the way through one day. When I’m eighty and my kids don’t visit me at the nursing home and they discontinue Jersey Shore. Then I might consider it.
I’m lying, I consider it all the time. It’s one of those things that you feel you should do, which has a lot to do with why I can’t do it. I hate being told what to do, even if it’s by my own misguided literary conscience. Because who likes to perform under pressure? It takes all the beauty and fun out of the act and leaves you with a dry, preachy experience full of heavily detailed descriptions of battles, wars, and bloody wounds. Ick.