When Sally Rooney finished her latest book, Beautiful World, Where Are You, she had a crisis. There’s too much sex, she told her editors in a flap. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to even read this, let alone write it’,” Rooney told crowds at a Southbank Centre event. The author begged to cut the sex scenes, but her editors refused. Thank God, says Amil Niazi in The Cut. These are the best literary love scenes I’ve read – “the Rooney brand of lust is cerebral, detached and centred on longing”. She doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty, but the sex is decidedly unsexy. Somehow that’s what makes it work. Everything feels real. “There is a sense of comfort in the normalcy of it all.”
But who wants to read about normal, boring sex, asks Ben Lawrence in The Daily Telegraph. “I think that out-and-out filth works better.” What’s more, sex scenes should be funny if possible. It’s why Jilly Cooper works so well – she knows how to use sex as entertainment, “which, of course, is one of fiction’s main purposes”. When it comes to sex in literature, writers should take journalist Harold Ross’s famous advice: “Be funny, and if you can’t be funny be interesting.”
Rooney’s sex scenes are certainly interesting, but maybe for the wrong reasons, says Janice Turner in The Times. Men are constantly asking if they are allowed to do things. (“Can I put you lying on your back?”) It’s called “active consent”, the idea that both parties must have permission before they engage in any sexual act. It’s laudable, maybe even erotic in practice, but totally clinical on paper. “Like a doctor preparing a patient for a colonoscopy.”
The one where Rachel goes for Mr Normal
Jennifer Aniston is looking to recreate Notting Hill and date a “normal” guy. “What I’m sort of hoping for is not necessarily somebody in the industry itself,” the actress told People. Might I suggest my dad, says Olivia Craighead in Gawker. “He works in politics (the showbusiness of the DC area), is a very good cook and is 6ft tall. Kind of a catch if you ask me.”
Agree when to differ
Scheduled disagreements are “the secret to a fight-free relationship”, says Rhaina Cohen in The Atlantic. For 40 years, Liz Cutler and her husband Tom Kreutz have avoided “impulsive arguments”, instead drawing up lists of grievances to discuss at meetings they now hold every three months. They’ve found that delaying hard conversations brings clarity and drains “some of the most painful emotions from conflict”, allowing them to focus on problem solving. Cutler says it “gives you time to put your little ego to bed and to be the grown-up and not the child inside you”. Their arrangement could benefit many couples, forcing “high-conflict partners to cool down” and “conflict-averse pairs to broach difficult topics”.