Sunday, January 15, 2012

Twenty-Two: Discoveries

I learned how to make love from books.  That's very much the usual way I do things. Not from how-to books, mind you. I've never had very much use for self-help books, let alone books on how to improve one's sex life. I still laugh at Octavio Paz's line upon encountering shelves of those at a bookstore in Los Angeles: "Only a gringo thinks he can learn to fuck from a book." I learned how to make love from novels, of course. That's probably a generational thing, or a class thing. In my undergraduate days, certain young men learned how to make love--- learned about what to say and poses to strike and what things one might do ---from novels. There may have been some porn involved, but not much. No on line porn in those days, and only the beginnings of video porn. One learned--- we learned ---from novels.

There are girls who read Pride and Prejudice and came away from it with an idea of what a lover should be like, and other girls who took the same thing from Lolita. I learned about sex and love affairs from Story of O and Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I'd read those in high school; I took them with me to university. There were other books, too. An odd mix of things, and not all of it translated from the French. Though most of the things I read were set a few thousand miles and a century or two away from where I lived. My own late teens were a long time before Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney; their books weren't aspirational for me 'til I was in graduate school.

I learned...what? Well, I learned that sex was only secondarily about flesh. Sex was narrative, sex was about style and mannered performances. Sex was as much about the place where it was done as it was about the people involved. What I read and took as my own abstracted me from sex in its simplest forms. It certainly abstracted me from being able to deal with lovers outside of mannered rituals.

Well, I'm here, somewhere past the midpoint of my life. I'm whatever it is I am, and I'm not likely to change. My ideas of how one makes love, of how one speaks to a lover, of the way a love affair should look--- all of that is derived from things I've read down the years. And it's part of me. I am what I've read. Books opened up the world to me, and I very willingly walked inside them.

If you're reading this, I hope you'll tell me how you learned about what love and love affairs and sex should be like. From films? Purely from fieldwork? Or did you have books of your own, books that showed you how to live and how to take a lover?