Fear of Sex in Fiction: The New Shyness

Sir Ian Dunham interviews the novelist Allan Gurganus about his new book, “Local Souls.”

I’m flattered that the Times can still be scandalized by my figments’ orgasmic necessities. After the criticism, my publisher noted a direct surge in sales. Money is so freely discussed today, maybe sex is shock value’s last frontier? The U.S. outlawed the import of Joyce’s 1922 “Ulysses.” An act of masturbation kept that book offshore. Joyce defended his characters’ right to have at least one daily erotic experience, even if self-induced. My genius teacher Grace Paley used to say, “Fictional characters also deserve the open destiny of life.” This, for me, includes the red-blooded possibility of having, say, bi-weekly sex, either in or out of marriage. Tell me the truth. In fiction and in life, is that asking too much?”

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