Less Is More

In my article yesterday, I spoke about sex scenes in fiction, and how what was once taboo is now being accepted with such grandiose openness, with books like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, aka ‘mommy porn’ as referred to by the media. While many authors write about sex, like Chekhov in the past and Nicholas Sparks now, they are not explicit about the sexual scene. To me, writing a sex scene is something personal and my own feeling is that ‘less is more’. The author has to ‘leave something to the imagination and the power of suggestion’. And to illustrate, here is an excerpt, described as one of the most erotic scenes in all literature, from Gustave Flaubert’s book ‘Madam Bovary’:

A street urchin was playing on the pavement.
“Go and get me a cab!”
The youngster shot off down the Rue des Quatre Vents, and they were left for a minute face to face, in some embarrassment.
‘Oh, Léon! Really – I don’t know – whether I ought…’, she simpered affectedly. Then she looked serious. ‘You know it’s not the thing!’
‘Why not?’ retorted the clerk. ‘It’s done in Paris!’
And that word, with the unassailable logic, decided her.
The cab hadn’t arrived yet, though; Léon was afraid she might retreat inside the Cathedral again. At last it came in sight.
‘At any rate you ought to go out through the North Door!’ cried the beadle, who had halted in the porch, ‘and see the Resurrection, the Last Judgment, the Paradise, King David, and the Damned in the Flames of hell!”
‘Where to, sir?’ said the cabby.
‘Where you like!’ said Léon, pushing Emma into the carriage; and the lumbering machine set off.
It went down the Rue Grand-Pont, across the Place des Arts, along Quai Napoléon, over the Pont Neuf, and pulled up sharply before the statue of Pierre Corneille.
‘Keep on!’ came a voice from inside.
The cab started off again, and gathering speed down the hill beyond the Carrefour La Fayette, drove into the station yard at full gallop.
‘No! Straight on!’ cried the voice again.
It passed out through the iron gates, and presently striking the Drive, trotted gently along between the tall elms. The cabby mopped his brow, stuck his leather hat between his legs and turned off beyond the side-avenues towards the green by the waterside.
All along the river, on the pebble-paved towing-path, went the fiacre, past the islands and a good way towards Oyssel.
Then suddenly it switched off through Quatre Mares, Sotteville, the Grande Chaussée, the Rue d’Elbeuf, and halted for the third time outside the Botanical Gardens.
‘Go on, will you!’ cried the voice yet more furiously.
Immediately it moved off again, past St Sever, the Quai des Curandiers, the Quai aux Meules, back over the bridge, across the Drill Square and behind the workhouse gardens, where old men in black jackets are to be seen strolling in the sunshine along the ivy-mantled terrace. It drove along the Boulevard Bouvreuil, down the Boulevard Cauchoise, and all the way up Mont Riboudet as far as the Côte de Deville.
There it turned and came back again, then went roaming at random, without aim or course. It was seen at St Pol and Lescure, at Mont Gargan, at the Rouge Mare and in the Place du Gaillardbois; in the Rue Maladerie, the rue Dinanderie, outside St Romain, St Vivien, St Maclou and St Nicaise; at the Customs House, at the Old Tower, the ‘Three pipes’, the Monumental Cemetery. Every now and then the driver, perched up on his box, would cast despairing glances at the public houses. He couldn’t conceive what mania for locomotion possessed these individuals that they should want to drive on for ever. Once or twice he did slow up, and angry exclamations immediately broke out behind him; whereupon he whipped up his sweating hacks still harder, jolting the cab recklessly, banging into things right and left and not caring, demoralized, almost weeping with thirst, fatigue and despondency.
And by the harbour, in the midst of the wagons and barrels, in the streets, at every corner, the citizens opened their eyes wide in amazement at the spectacle, so extraordinary in a provincial town, of a carriage with drawn blinds, continually reappearing, sealed tighter than a tomb and being buffeted about like a ship at sea.
Once, in the middle of the day, when they were right out in the country and the sun was beating down at its fiercest on the old silver-plated carriage-lamps, an ungloved hand stole out beneath the little yellow canvas and tossed away some scraps of paper, which were carried off on the wind and landed like white butterflies in a field of red clover in full bloom.
At about six o’clock the cab drew up in a side-street in the Beauvoisine quarter, and a woman got out; she walked away with her veil lowered, and without a backward glance.


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4 Responses to Less Is More

  1. Samir says:

    It’s a great scene… actually, it’s just a great book!

  2. Wonderful scene. It implies so much without going into graphic details.

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