Whenever I pick up a book, I read it on a number of levels. I read for content, plot and general enjoyment of reading, but I always look at things from a writer’s perspective. I’ll be reading along and come to an abrupt halt. Why did I stop? I’ll pick apart a chapter or paragraph, sentence or word. Why did the writer choose to use that word?

How-to books for erotic writers are filled with admonitions about using sex to further a story and not just for the sake of having a sex scene without context. I’m always on the look-out to see how others accomplish the task of writing erotically within the frame of creating a complete and compelling story.

One of my recent reads was Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion. He is better known for his English Patient, but this work is equal to its sequel. However, I came to the following passage and had to stop and ponder it for a while.

They were sitting on the floor leaning into the corner of the room, her mouth on his nipple, her hand moving his cock slowly. An intricate science, his whole body imprisoned there, a ship in a bottle. I’m going to come. Come in my mouth. Moving forward, his fingers pulling back her hair like torn silk, he ejaculated, disappearing into her. She crooked her finger,motioning, and he bent down and put his mouth on hers. He took it, the white character, and they passed it back and forth between them till it no longer existed, till they didn’t know who had him like a lost planet somewhere in the body.

In context with the rest of the story this passage makes complete sense. The main character is completely passive in his life and is in love with a woman who can’t be his. He sits on the floor, in a corner…his cock is like a ship in a bottle…can there be any more direct way of saying he’s feeling trapped?

Not one of the women in my group reading this book thought this passage was sexually stimulating or particularly enticing. It is, however, one of those scenes that shows more about a relationship that is going nowhere and where someone is completely rudderless.

When they “pass it back and forth til it no longer existed” the man’s semen is a physical metaphor. The entire encounter can be used to set the general timbre of their relationship. They are together only tangentially yet they are one.

The other sex in the novel is alluded to in more general terms. They clearly are having more traditional intercourse, but the scene in the corner is the only one that gives the reader a full understanding to the depth and impossibility of their relationship.

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