You may remember that I interviewed Catherine McNamara last year to talk about The Divorced Lady’s Companion to Living in Italy—a sexy little cannolo of a novel, about which I carried on to anyone who would listen. I’m so pleased to have her back again to talk about her new short story collection. And sex. You’ll be shocked to know that we’re talking about sex.
We’re just made that way.
SEX AND THE SHORT STORY
I like sex. I like language. I like stories. It’s very simple and it has always been that way.
But I’m not an erotic writer like Averil. I don’t consider myself very raunchy – well, maybe a little – and yet somehow the sex just seeps in. An English colleague interviewing me in Penzance said, But Catherine, you write about sex with such ease – I could never let that all out!
How embarrassing! And the audience making me feel like an Aussie tart.
And yet. Weren’t we raised on D.H. Lawrence, the great English master of man, woman and nature? Didn’t this writer spend a few good years in Paris absorbing Anais Nin and ‘The Story of O’? And hasn’t she recently fallen in love with James Salter’s work, who brilliant blog reviewer John Self says writes about sex ‘as though he really gives a damn’?
I just looked through the titles of my collection ‘Pelt and Other Stories’ to see if there was just one story that doesn’t mention sex, or where the act of sex does not occur.
Oh dear. There are a few. Well, a couple where it doesn’t even happen (phew!).
What does it mean, Averil? When one constantly has this four-legged monster in the room?
What John Self says about Salter’s ‘pornography’ is that the author writes ‘not primarily of sex, but of living: everything is at a height, fully-realised and rich in colour. The characters enjoy lives of significance and meaning: events, roles, status.’
Okay, that’s where I’d like to put up my hand. Many of my stories deal with displacement, migration, living in another person’s skin, rubbing up against another person’s skin, discomfort, aftermath. Colour, gender; landscape and history. Some of you may have read my blurb over on Betsy’s an age ago: ‘Two foolhardy snowboarders challenge the savagery of mountain weather in the Dolomites. A Ghanaian woman strokes across a hotel pool in the tropics, flaunting her pregnant belly before her lover’s discarded wife…’
So you see? Just stories. Catherine-rattling-on-stories. But now – because I want Averil to pull out a beautiful photo we can all swoon over – I’m going to give you some Pelt Sex Scenes (I feel like I am leading you into a darkened room, mauve light in the corner; a field at night, a kitchen table..)
‘She was thirsty, the two beers at the hotel had brought it on. Now she was clammy with his liquid and everything felt flawless. She looked at him as he drove, wanting to rub herself harder into his skin once again, wanting to lick his eyelids and use her tongue to feel his teeth. She wanted to chase him, bring him down, feed on the spurting from his neck.’ (Where the Wounded Go)
‘I found Corinne weeping on the boot of my car after a hard night in the city. Mine is a dull area and finding a beautiful sobbing French woman in the night was akin to finding a real fairy at the bottom of the garden. I couldn’t get it out of her, what had happened, whether she’d been gang-raped by punks or her cat had been flattened by a car. Despite being in incredibly bad shape and having an early start the next day, I urged her into the house, made some strong tea and set her upon the couch. As I took my last look at her wilted eyes and pale forehead settling under the emergency duvet, she beckoned me.’ (Young British Man Drowns in Alpine Lake)
‘..this is Stromboli, the love island of Rossellini and Bergman. Reece hasn’t reminded me yet, but I know this is what makes him so heated and distinct. He holds my face inches from his, keening into me. We cradle, we leak on the flowering tiles. The unshuttered windows admit a breeze carrying the scent of rotting figs. Behind the house the volcano spills into the fields.’ (Stromboli)
Thank you for having me Averil! And readers, I have started a secret, lyrical work (title begins with ‘A’) and I am savouring every word.