‘Add a touch of sex and we’ll have them…!’
He emphasized his brilliance with a casual click of fingers to attract a waiter’s attention. The man’s capitalist orientation was all there in the casual certainty of his educated voice. You couldn’t have missed it.
We’ll satisfy the insatiable appetite, attract them with plastic breasts, draw them in with what they can’t get enough of and feed them our subliminal message. They won’t even know that we’re selling them something else… was the implicit message.
Sex. The cherry on the top. The sweetener. The appetiser. The addiction.
He reminded me of a thirty-something self-starter I once worked with who owned his own Company and developed client training material. A successful businessman who wore an earring and long shining black hair in a ponytail; nothing wrong with being smart and arty his whole attitude seemed to say. Contrary to what you might have expected the big corporate executives gave him plenty of work. We put it down to the confidence he projected.
That’s what this guy in the coffee shop was like too; super-confident, no doubts in his mind about sex being the ultimate additive. The woman opposite him was listening closely, her head to one side; she wasn’t going to challenge him. He could have been an advertising executive or a literary agent. I keep thinking back to what Saul Bellow said about every serious writer having to write a book about death and another about sex.
Sex is as weighty a topic as death is, I want to say to the stranger I overhear on my way out the coffee shop. It’s not just a throwaway line. I want to tell him I find gratuitous sex to be nasty and horrible. He wants to sell me cheap perfume and I want to buy a timeless erotic fragrance. I want to tell him: Sex isn’t just about pelvic thrusts and bared boobs in our faces; it’s physical contact between living breathing thinking human beings. A mysterious alchemy of mind and skin. That’s the secret, intimate space that could fascinate one.
It’s a great comfort that what goes around comes around; everything’s going retro these days. My coffee shop man may even impress a future acolyte with the immortal line: ‘add a touch of class and we’ll have them…!’ One can live in hope.
PS. Blogging is turning out to be more fun than I thought. There’s something therapeutic about being able to respond to a stranger’s words without ever speaking to him.
Harrison Ford to interviewer Margaret Gardiner (The Good Weekend, August 20, 2011): “… I thought the trick to this business was that they pay you fairly. Since they respect you based on how much they pay you, I’ve never been shy about asking for money… I also mean it when I say that I’m in it for the money. That is to say, this is my job. I don’t have another job. I don’t do it for free any more than a plumber does it for free.”
Any book publishers out there listening? Any literary agents out there listening? All you gung-ho wannabe authors out there, I dunno if that would be a wise career move… Consider the energy expended to potential income ratio: a friend of mine paints; it took her about a day to finish a painting she later sold for R12 000 to an American; that’s what I would call a decent return for her time.
How long will it take you to complete your first book? Double that. How much of your own money will you spend on learning your craft and editorial advice? Triple that. Before you leave your boring/stressful/dead-end/impossible/unsatisfactory paying full-time job take a long cool sober look at a standard publishing contract. What kind of book sales would you need just to get you through the month? Never mind, there’s always acting… Or plumbing.
PS. Have I broken the cardinal writers’ rule? The comment above is intended to be full of wry wisdom gained with not a note of whine but it’s a fine fine line and easily crossed.
Departures is the cool name of an astonishingly beautiful Japanese movie (academy award for best foreign-language film) about an out-of-work cellist who ends up working in a funeral home by mistake and proves to have a calling. It makes one think of a Departures lounge at an airport – as if we’re all just in transit from here to somewhere. In the movie the father bequeathes the wonderful idea of stone letters to his young son; he disappears out of the boy’s life but the quaint story remains behind.
I experienced the pang of writer’s envy – what a fantastic idea… wrapping the fingers of the mother of your unborn child around a stone you have selected… a simple powerful image to weave past and present together, as well as make the emotional high point (see the movie!) – a potentially corny moment – totally believeable.
In The Good Cemetery Guide the only thing Anthony Loxton’s father left him was the ability to speak to the dead; imagination and a reaching out for grace was not permitted; so Anthony unloaded onto a Mexican puppet and dreamt of Mexico which was as far away from Kalk Bay as any place he knew. Being the kind of person who picks up random stones and rocks everywhere she goes the delightful idea of the look and feel of a stone evoking unspoken thoughts and emotions – a wordless letter – resonates with me in a big way.
One can almost hear the beating heart of a stone as it rests quietly in one’s hand; it’s sometimes warm and sometimes cold but always oddly mystical, this nugget of rock created by cosmic activity and ancient weather patterns. Hence the borrowed category title: Stone Letters. The entire significance always seems to escape one: the felt whole is always greater than the sum of words written on the page. Maybe stone letters will work better…
It turns out that the movie is loosely based on Coffinman: The Memoir of a Buddhist Mortician, by Shinmon Aoki.