Point/Counterpoint is a beloved feature that first appeared in the fall 1972 edition of the Weeklings. PC/P is the product of an intellectual tradition hearkening back to storied Oxford debate squads and the golden age of radio, in which two authors match wits over random subjects while being forced to choose a side and defend it on the fly. Readers are advised to stand back, as the heat can get intense. This week’s arm-wrestle involves author, sex-questioner, and vivacious bon-vivant, Ms. Jessica Anya Blau.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the clock.
Writing a sex scene-
Point (Blau): Because I’ve never thought of sex as something separate from character, my sex scenes don’t feel like sex scenes to me (when I’m writing them). They just feel like scenes in which my characters are doing the things they do. I usually like reading sex scenes in fiction but I’m often uncomfortable when I read sex scenes in nonfiction. I feel embarrassed for the people who had the sex, as if it was something I wasn’t supposed to know but stumbled upon. It’s like being a kid and opening your parents’ bedroom door on a night you’re supposed to be at a sleepover.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I think the eunuch in literature is undervalued. What’s with the constant furtive trysts and hot tub chafe and Rothian lust? I want to read about the trials and adventures of a young castrato in a Gregorian Chant ensemble. I want to read about regular guys who are low on the testosterone spectrum and are considering mentioning a commercial they saw for Cialis to their primary care physician. I demand a trilogy that’s set on the beaches, nightclubs, and wealthy villas of the Amalfi coast in which the words “member”, “frottage”, “pinion”, “splay”, “athwart” or “release” never appear. Quiet, unassuming celibacy that eschews compound adjectives is the next vampire. Publishing is crying for some author to dare to be frictionless, to explore the boundaries of the inert. Seriously, someone should pitch that shit.
Point (Beaudoin): I love Clint. I grew up with Clint. From Italian gunplay badassery to Magnum Force to the movies with Clyde the orangutan, my father and I saw them all. Even the weird ones, like Play Misty for Me and The Gauntlet, which makes no sense at all. Or High Plains Drifter, which is a very, very strange film. Through it all, you could tell Clint was on the conservative side, from the whole “victims rights” undertone of Dirty Harry to Eiger Sanction, which is one of the most hilariously non-PC movies I’ve ever seen. But I always had the sense that Clint was still cool, you know? I mean, he was with the eternally wan Sandra Locke, who looked like a seventeenth-century French poem come to life. And he played piano. Dude had to be pretty hip, right? Which is why his RNC speech came as such a huge psychic blow. Not that I care if he doesn’t like Obama, the public option, or cuts to corporate tax rates. It’s that he actively supports the empty argyle sock that is Mitt Romney. What, my man Clint can’t see through Mitt fucking Romney? He actually agreed to shill for the guy instead of left-hooking him to the solar plexus and then asking him if he feels lucky, punk? Devastating.
All I have to say is this: When you take the N out of Clint . . . ah, never mind. Okay, I’ll say this: he was once with Frances Fisher (they have a daughter together). I adore Frances Fisher. She stars in a movie I co-wrote (Franny, it’s in post-production now) and she is ridiculously funny and amazing in the movie. She was also great in Titanic. And I dig her red hair. So I think we can agree that he has great taste in women.
Hiring a publicist-
Point (Blau): I’ve never hired one. HarperCollins gives me one and they’re always smart, witty, well-dressed, good-looking people. If they weren’t the people they were, but just looked the way they look, they could be drug reps. Drug reps are always good-looking. It’s amazing to think that your doctor probably prescribed a particular drug for you—which may or may not do more harm than good—because some hot rep took him/her to lunch. I don’t mind thinking that someone bought my book or put me on the radio because my publicist took him/her to lunch. Although I’m pretty sure my publicist has never taken anyone to lunch on my behalf. There is no world where I am someone who merits a lunch.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): The world I inhabit is one where you deserve many free lunches, mostly because you’re a wonderful person, but also because you just offered to outsource your Harper publicist to me on a 50/50 basis without charge. Thanks so much! Actually, I think if I had an extra five grand I would buy a vintage Gibson guitar and then just Tweet a lot instead. I find that my (now in the multiple hundreds) Twitter followers are sort of like a publicity machine all on their own. Or an army of conquering Hessians. I feed them regular moronic asides, inexplicable non-sequiturs, and bald self-promo. For some reason they lap it up, and then regurgitate it in kind to their followers. It’s akin to baby birds being fed, or selling Amway–except without the half-digested worm or detergent that doesn’t really get your clothes clean. When I was a kid my grandmother was into the whole Amway routine, so for years we got Amway Christmas gifts, which arguably are better than lumps of charcoal, but only because charcoal will stain your Izod.
The push to utilize a movie-style ratings system on book covers-
Point (Beaudoin): I am so absolutely for this. It was a great idea under Tipper Gore’s PMRC, and it’s an even better idea now. I wish some Heritage Council, Carrie Nation type, or Mississippi Baptist parent’s board would immediately decree all my books triple XXX and put a huge warning on the cover demanding that no teenager, under any circumstance ever be allowed to hold one, let alone read it. Then they could make a towering pile of The Infects in the middle of the street, soak it down with kerosene, and flick a Zippo. Actually, if I were smart, instead of a publicist, I’d hire an avant-garde acting troupe to do it for me, and then somehow make sure sure Tucker Carlson and Steve Doocy showed up.
Counter-point (Blau): If they put ratings on books it should be for the adults who buy and pay for the books. Here is what I think would be the most useful rating system: JCO: Another book by Joyce Carol Oates; C: Another book written by a celebrity who might have spent, like, two hours working on the thing; PDF: Any book that is porn disguised as fiction (you know what I’m saying here, Beaudoin, it’s on your wife’s night table!); OhC: a book written by one of the great Canadian writers (Hey Miss Alice Munroe, I’m talking about you!); N?: a collection of short stories that is cover-designed and marketed as a novel because novels sell better than short stories (I’m not knocking this practice, by the way, I might engage in it myself one day).
Point (Blau): Here’s the thing about jazz: the smartest people I know love it. So I’m embarrassed about the fact that I hate it. I especially hate instrumental jazz, which to me sounds like European police and raid sirens all going off at once. I once read that people who listen to jazz have more sex than any other group of people. How could this be? My husband loves jazz. Although maybe I shouldn’t admit this as it implies an unwritten (yet already enacted) embarrassing nonfiction sex scene.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I think the weird thing about jazz is that if you’re not into it, you sort of assume it’s this uniform entity that you either have to love or hate all of. But it’s pretty much just like any other genre of music. There is plenty of shitty, boring jazz. Just like there’s a massive glut of tired commercial rock. If you have someone guide you to the stuff that really burns, to the iconic players and bands and compositions, you might not fall in love with it, but I bet you’d at least change your general opinion. It’s true, but the way. The sex/jazz thing? No question. It’s also true that people who love jazz are smarter, more successful, and should be handed more money randomly by strangers. But do me a favor and listen to Charles Mingus every day for a week. If things haven’t been drastically revised, tightened, and improved in your non-fiction scene by the following Friday, I will eat an entire red Converse All-star on YouTube.
Paul Ryan’s wood for Ayn Rand-
Point (Beaudoin): I sort of get it. I mean, not for him now, but for him back when he was fourteen. On the other hand, the fact that he never let it go and probably still has an entire set of Alan Greenspan’s Rockin’ Fed action figures on the tour bus is disturbing. But I have to admit that I too spent a few years heavily influenced by Ms. Rand and her message of pure individualism. But even back then Atlas Shrugged didn’t make me want to be a writer or a politician, it made me want to move to a mountain retreat with all my superior friends and invent things and be all enigmatic and tough. Later on, when I began to understand what she was really talking about, Atlas Shrugged made me want to be one of the firemen in Fahrenheit 451. No further comment is needed beyond the fact that I first read Ayn Rand because of the cover of Rush’s 2112 (“We are the priests! Of the temples of! Syrinx!”). Inside there’s a dedication to her. I was like, “Hey, if Rush loves this Rand chick so much, she has to be great.” So I zipped out (actually my mom drove me) and bought We The Living, which is like simpleminded crack for teen alienation and young conspiracy obsessives. Turns out Rush was wrong. Neil Pert may play the hell out of his nine-thousand piece kit, but in the end he’s just another Objectivist asshole. So my hope for Paul Ryan between now and the election is that he hits puberty and graduates to reading Rousseau.
Counter-point (Blau): Well, you and Paul Ryan are both better read than I because I have never opened an Ayn Rand book. I did just Google her and I skimmed her Wikipedia page so I could figure out why Paul Ryan loves her. I don’t think the answer is in this line from her Wik Page: [she] “…rejected all forms of faith and religion.” I have read Rousseau, however. In French, no less. But I remember none of it because that was in college when I was ridiculous, red-headed, and idiotic, wearing boxer shorts with blue pumps or sweatpants with a giant moon-y hole in the ass.
Point (Blau): I’m a food eunuch. I eat. I like some things—chocolate or a good bowl of cereal. But I don’t spend much time thinking about food or thinking about what I ate or thinking about what I’m going to eat. When people start talking about food, getting all porny and oozy over it, I watch and listen with detached amazement. It’s sort of like watching people talk about football, or wine, or their kids.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): Nothing gets me going like a high gloss close-up of a glistening baked ham. Footage of an artisanal mache and brune d’hiver salad with a lemon-truffle dressing being tossed with bamboo tongs in a hand-thrown volcanic clay bowl is essentially like watching Deep Throat in slow motion. Sometimes, in the throes of passion, I’ll whisper “bread me in panko” or “I am going to so lightly sear your ass” or “that was hotter than a Sriracha reduction” or “darling, would you slowly mise my en place one more time?”
Point (Beaudoin): There are a lot of gay players in the NFL, no question. It’s only a matter of time before a huge superstar calls a press conference and just sits there with a smirk on his face and says “Yeah, I’m queer. So what? Got a problem with it? Too bad, cause I’ll be tackling your favorite player and wrestling him to the ground all game long next Sunday.” I think that guy will not only be a national hero, but for every Dodge Ram and Coors Light endorsement he loses, he’ll gain a million other ones. Like Valentino, and whatever hair gel Travolta shills for. In fact, I’m surprised some straight player with a genius agent hasn’t done it already, just for the press and the $$$. It’s the next frontier: style, fashion, and fierceness flat out strutting it on the gridiron. I can barely wait.
Counter-point (Blau): Well, I hope you’re right about this. There are two things I love about football games on TV: 1. The small bios they show of each player where they say where they went to school (“Ball So Hard U” Hurrah!). 2. When some player does a great little dance after a touchdown. Other than that, I spend game time doing the crossword puzzle or reading student papers or painting my toe nails blue.
Jessica Anya Blau’s newest novel, Drinking Closer to Home was featured in Target stores as a “Breakout Book.” Her first novel, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties (HarperCollins/Harper Perennial), was picked as a Best Summer Book by the Today Show, the New York Post and New York Magazine. Her essays appear in The Huffington Post, the AOL homepage, The Nervous Breakdown and Redroom. Currently Jessica is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Goucher College. She also teaches at Johns Hopkins University where she attended The Writing Seminars.