Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Couples Are Crazy

At the end of last year, I read this article in the NY Times Sunday Book Review about how the new literary lions (cubs?) can't write about sex like the old literary lions. Dave Eggers writes about cuddling, whereas Philip Roth wrote about having sex with a plate of chicken livers. (Okay, ew. But hilarious, right?)

Well, one of the older books they mentioned was John Updike's Couples. I'd tried once, many years ago, to read Rabbit Run, because my dad had recommended it. Never got very far, but I figured I'd give Couples a try. After all, that Updike guy was a national treasure. And a Red Sox fan.

Turns out the book is pretty awesome. Not only does it take place in Eastern Massachusetts, but it's dirty as hell and fascinating much the same way that Mad Men is. It was published in 1968 but takes places in 1963, which should tell you all you need to know about what will happen.

There's a bunch of upper- and lower-middle class couples roaming around Tarbox, having sex or trying to have sex with each other's husbands and wives. It's pretty graphic -- check this out: "She would give herself to him in slavish postures, as if witnessing in her mouth or between her breasts the tripped unclotting thump of his ejaculation made it her own." Wow! Unclotting thump!

But there's also plenty else going on. I just love a writer who can come up with stuff like this: "I remember lovemaking as an exploration of a sadness so deep people must go in pairs, one cannot go alone."

One thing that I think is dated is how much people think about death in the book. Maybe it was the whole Cold War/Atomic bomb hanging over your head thing. But to have sex to stave off death? Come on! The French have it right -- sex IS death. Le petit morte.

Anyway, I highly recommend the book -- especially because I want to talk about the end with someone.

In other news, have you seen the new Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck video? Holy crapolo, it's nuts!

Beck wrote all of the music and some of the lyrics for the disc, which has several tracks about her near-death experience. (Don't go skiing, ever, is the lesson here.)

I've been researching an article about French pop, so I've come across all sorts of cool '60s video, like this version of "Do the Locomotion" by Sylvie Vartan (did you know she was actually Hungarian?).

And also, wow, did things ever go wrong in France in the '70s. Check out Sylvie auditioning for ABBA … or Sha Na Na.

Um, and here's the ever-fascinating Francoiz Breut, with more people in strange animal masks. Must be a French thing.


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