BY THE BOOK

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - FEA­TURE -

So what does good sex in lit­er­a­ture look like? Here is an edited ex­cerpt from what is widely agreed to be the best sex scene in mod­ern lit­er­a­ture, Ian McEwen’s li­brary tryst in his 2001 novel Atone­ment: “They held their breath be­fore the mem­brane parted, and when it did she turned away quickly, but made no sound — it seemed to be a point of pride … In­stead of an ec­static frenzy, there was still­ness. They were stilled not by the as­ton­ish­ing fact of ar­rival, but by an awed sense of re­turn — they were face to face in the gloom, star­ing into what lit­tle they could see of each other’s eyes, and now it was the im­per­sonal that dropped away … Noth­ing as sin­gu­lar or as im­por­tant had hap­pened since the day of his birth … Fi­nally he spoke the three sim­ple words that no amount of bad art or bad faith can ever quite cheapen … He had no religious be­lief, but it was im­pos­si­ble not to think of an in­vis­i­ble pres­ence or wit­ness in the room, and that these words spo­ken aloud were like sig­na­tures on an unseen con­tract.They had been mo­tion­less for per­haps as long as half a minute. Longer would have re­quired the mas­tery of some for­mi­da­ble tantric art. They be­gan to make love against the li­brary shelves which creaked with their move­ment … He forced him­self to re­mem­ber the dullest things he knew — boot­black, an ap­pli­ca­tion form, a wet towel on his bed­room floor. There was also an up­turned dust­bin lid with an inch of rain­wa­ter in­side, and the in­com­plete tea-ring stain on the cover of his Hous­man po­ems.”

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