I'm almost ready. I've written my letter to Congress
and the Judiciary Committee. Check.
I've survived "Back to School" month with my grade-school daughter, which,
since the anti-bilingual education initiative passed in California, is more
like "Back to the Animal Farm" month. Check.
I filed my 1997 taxes -- paying them is another matter that I will be
taking up with my local lottery ticket emporium. I have filed an absentee
ballot, put an automated message on my e-mail saying that I have moved to
Siberia and I bought 100 vials of miniature M&Ms. Check, check, check!
What I am about to do takes more discipline and energy than any amount of
snow or sugar could provide, but I'm attempting it nonetheless: I have to
finish my new book in six weeks.
I've been working on a new book all this year -- a book about the
connection between sexuality and creativity, as well as the ethics and
dilemmas of erotic expression. I don't have a title yet. In fact, if you
can think of a nifty one, I will SEND you one of my precious bottles of
miniature M&Ms. I'll even autograph each M, which would be a great
procrastination exercise for someone who has to finish a book in six weeks.
My own favorite philosophical book about sexuality is not about sex per se,
although it has a lot to say about lust: Roland Barthes' famous collection
of thoughts called "Lover's Discourse: Fragments." He is the first author I
ever read who examined the process of being obsessed with someone to the
point of madness -- a quite typical experience, I'm sure you'll agree --
and broke it down into a series of interior dialogs about what happens to
When I first picked up Barthes' book, it was on a remainders table at my
local book shop with a sticker that said "Lover's Disco." The remaining
letters of the title had been cut off, but it caught my attention just like
a mirrored disco ball will draw every eye to its spinning reflections.
(Maybe I should call my book "Lover's Disco"?)
What I love most about "A Lover's Discourse" is Barthes' description of the
inner world of sex -- so acute and so unsentimental. For a lot of my
writing career, I've gotten caught up in the politics and the baying of
wolves on the outside of everybody's own personal experience of sex.
But with this new book I want to venture further into uncharted
territories, and believe me that won't be easy.
I've picked some topics that I've dipped into in the past, and I've chosen
some new ones, too. I want to write about sex and spirituality because
I've always been so disdainful of the pretentious stuff that's published on
that subject. I know that it doesn't even begin to describe how people feel
I'll bet if you had to pick one topic a sexpert wouldn't care to weigh in
on, it would probably be celibacy. So, naturally, I'm planning to write
about that, too. What would make someone want take a pass on one of life's
most thrilling and meaningful aspects? It's a sexual choice that has
sometimes baffled me, but at other times I can understand perfectly the
urge to say, "No, thanks."
I want to examine the dark side of sex, and ask just how much deliverance
we can expect from the sexual revolution. I'm going to look at the
connection between beauty and eroticism (they're not the same thing, you
know). I'm going to tease out the role of envy in sexual repression
And, like Barthes, I'm writing about the strange emotional puzzle of
obsession. My own worst obsessions haven't been with unattainable objects,
but with people who never felt about me the way I felt about them. When we
fucked, it didn't turn them upside down the way it did me. I've been on the
other end of that equation, too, and now I'm determined to explore how it
all adds up. As you can see, I've got my work cut out for me.
Unlike some of the stories you hear about authors these days, I am writing
this book all by myself. Call me old-fashioned, but I actually like to
write, and I don't think anyone else could say what I say as well as I do.
I've written more than half of it already, and last week I could see with
crystal disco-ball vision what the end would look like. It was like the
writer's version of that sneaky peek I sometimes take as a reader, scanning
the last paragraph of a novel to see if I will spoil it entirely or
intrigue myself even further.
I feel sorry, though, for the writer who has already turned in his
or her erotic manifesto for publication in the next few months, doomed to
irrelevance as the whole world watches this country disembowel itself over
its sexual double standards. New titles like "Madonna's Tantric Love
Kaballah" and "Learning from Viagra" just aren't going to match the new
Zeitgeist, as well-meaning as they may be.
As I deliberated in my last column, sexuality as subject has been hijacked by neo-Puritans with no flair
for literature, and they have polluted many hopes for erotic artistry and
integrity. Yet I must persevere, I must insist that there is an erotic
space in people's heads where happy (and even not-so-happy) little
bluebirds fly, where hypocrites melt like candy drops and media whores have
their toes curl up and turn to dust. Maybe I'll call my book "Smell the
Nevertheless, I must get to work, and my final great distraction is my
Salon column. It's extremely fun to write this column, to be right on top
of what's happening and get feedback from many of you within minutes. But
I'm going to put my joystick down for a few weeks. I'm pulling my 56K modem
out of my vein and I'm going to toil on actual paper until I get this
During my brief absence, I want you all to suffer, beautifully. I want you
to notice that sexual conversations aren't quite the same without me
breathing through your screen. I want you to send me winning lottery
numbers and title ideas that make airport bookstore managers weep with
admiration. Most of all, I look forward to being with you again in
December. Wish me luck.