Today please welcome Maxim Jakubowski, whose new novel "Ekaterina and the Night" is going right on my reading list.
Maxim, you have the floor...
Choosing the Right Words
In the UK we say tomato; in the USA you say tomato. However, it sounds different. But it's the same word, of course. Just another indication of the ever widening gulf between our two cultures. In other instances, words are spelled slightly differently, or expressions can have different meanings depending on which side of the ocean you are standing.
But when it comes to writing about sex and practicing the art (oh, yes, it is definitely one...) of writing literary erotica, we have a further communication problem, folks: the delicate matter of what are the right words for certain activities or body parts. Both as a writer and an editor of many anthologies, it's a problem I have to confront daily and I must openly confess my personal sensibility and dislike of certain words and expressions can strongly influence my editorial process and turn me against certain submissions if their repeated use of what feels to me like the wrong vocabulary assaults and profoundly disturbs my appreciation of the text.
My views on this delicate subject are outlined in the opening page of my 2002 novel KISS ME SADLY, albeit with a touch of irony:
"She said pussy.
I said cunt.
Just a minor misundertanding in our confused exploration of the world of lust.
Sexual semantics the way Brits and Ameticans differ on their pronunciation of the word 'tomato' maybe?
For her, pussy was playful, gently sexy, fond as well as provocative, almost an endearment.
To me, it just sounded downright vulgar. A word used too often in bad X-rated movies with inane and damn inappropriate canned muzak on the soundtrack to accompany the vaginal hydraulics on open display, or whatever other orifice the action chose to feature in intimate close-up. A very American word.
Maybe she'd had too many American correspondents or cybersex partners on the Internet.
Pussy just reminded me of cats. I hated cats.
In her opinion, cunt was too direct, too offensive, too raw.
For me, it was something natural, honest and a matter-of-fact word to describe the female sex, a body part which never failed to fascinate and obsess me. I was naturally aware that there were a further hundred or more names for it, descriptions and euphemisms and such. I even had a book on my shelves which gloriously listed them all, with origin, language and etymology analysed in cod scholarly fashion. Don't ever fault my research.
I did not believe in fancy words that skirted the subject: a cunt was a cunt was a cunt."
I still don't think I can improve on this. Seeing the word pussy in a text sees me frown with irritation, quietly seething inside. There is an innate vulgarity about it. Ditto when an author familiarly refers to breasts as tits. Again, a breast is a breast is a breast, or preferably two...
Believe me, I am not blaming America for the way pussies insidiously spread across the territories of erotica in all impunity. British writers have become as guilty of over-using the word.
Now I believe that in order to stay on the right side, to maintain the borderline in place that divides what I see as erotica from pornography, we authors in the genre must strive to avoid any semblance of vulgarity in our descriptions of bodies, body parts and sexual scenes; sadly, the immoderate use of the wrong words, however colloquial they might seeem and an integral part of everyday language is becopming more prevalent, and a more judicious choice of words is preferable. Admittedly, often the right word is anatomical and maybe less elegant in the circumstances, but I still think it is preferable to the more vulgar, commonplace choice on offer.
So while I don't mind ass instead of arse -it's just a matter of alternate spelling- please deliver me of pussies and tits and other clumsy appelations. Keep our erotica clean!
That's why in my new novel EKATERINA AND THE NIGHT, as well as in all my previous novels and story collections, you will seldom across pussies, unless it's a character I despise and whose dialogue is peppered with the wrong words. And please when it comes to the male anatomy, let's just stick to cock and penis, folks. I'm aware there are scores of alternate words, flowery similes and euphemisms for the male member, but in a story, don't they all have the wrong ring? Keep it simple, I say.
I've recently completed translating a wonderful 600 pages French erotic novel, MONSIEUR by Emma Becker, into English; I expect it to be published late in 2012 and believe/hope it will have a major impact. It's that good. And as we all know, a translator is often a clever traitor to the text, so I can safely reveal that I have eliminated the French version of 'pussy' and provided the (autobiographical) French young heroine with a permanent cunt, and her lover a similarly robust and repetitive cock. All very much tongue in cheek, of course.
After all, we are writers of erotica, and not ersatz romance and the power of words does not scare us, does it?
Lolita meets Story of O, another memorable tale of love, sex and feelings from ‘the King of the erotic thriller’
When Ekaterina meets Alexander a shockingly sexy but tender romance develops.
She is a young Italian trainee journalist, who dreams of wild sexual adventures. He is the older Englishman who she believes can fulfill her fantasies. When Ekaterina is sent to interview the ageing writer Alexander in London, she is blinded by his charm and experience. Their relationship explodes in a sensual orgy, which defies society’s acceptance.
When a mysterious angel of death who calls herself Emma enters their lives, Ekaterina and Alexander know their days together are numbered.
A shocking climax set in Venice in winter brings the three protagonists together.
A tale of sex and tenderness that ranks alongside Jakubowski classic The State of Montana.
"Ekaterina and the Night" is available in ebook and print form and can be found at Amazon UK and US, Erotica Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand, Book Depository, All Romance Ebooks, Waterstones, WHSmith and Barnes and Noble.
MAXIM JAKUBOWSKI worked for many years in book publishing as an editor (including titles by William Golding, Peter Ackroyd, Oliver Stone, Michael Moorcock, Peter Ustinov, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Paul Ableman, Sophie Grigson, Marc Behm, Cornell Woolrich, etc...) and launched the Murder One Bookshop, which he owned and ran for over 20 years. He now writes, edits and translates full-time in London.
COMMENT TO WIN!
Courtesy of Xcite Books, three lucky winners can get their hands on a copy of Ekaterina and the Night in their choice of paperback or digital format. (International entries welcome)
Simply leave a comment on this post to win. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in the tour, because the more comments you make, the more chance you have of winning! Go here to see the blog tour schedule.
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