Sunday 25 February 2018

For so long, sex was a cloaked subject -- now it's so open, it's almost compulsory

D H Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' wasn't permitted to be read in Britain until after1960.
D H Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' wasn't permitted to be read in Britain until after1960.
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Sometimes there's a novel that "everyone" is recommended to read, and although I don't always fit in with "everyone", I yielded in the case of 'Stoner' by the late John Williams. Every critic has hailed it as a rediscovered masterpiece (it was published in 1973, now re-issued), so I had to see what the fuss was about.

And yes, it is a touching story, about an unremarkable man's life, its small sadnesses and poignant little disappointments. But it also illustrated something I had almost forgotten: how decorous, how reserved, how tasteful sex scenes used to be in literature.

The bedroom scenes in 'Stoner' are fit for any maiden aunt, or anyone who never wants to read the word "orgasm" (or its ilk) again. Stoner's honeymoon night was not much of a success. "Like so many others," writes the author (who was born in 1922 and died in 1994), Stoner and his wife "went into marriage innocent, but innocent in profoundly different ways".

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