Making People Think They Enjoy Sex
Jonathan Ames is a writer, boxer, storyteller and, most recently, the creator of the HBO series, "Bored to Death." His books include "The Extra Man" and "Wake Up Sir" and the collection of essays, "The Double Life is Twice as Good." Ames is a frequent performer at the storytelling group, The Moth and has appeared in boxing tournaments as "The Herring Wonder." A graduate of Princeton and Columbia Universities, he lives in Brooklyn.
Question: Is there a particular joy in writing about sex?
Jonathan Ames: I’ve often been drawn to writing about sex. I’ve tried to answer this question before. I did in some interview recently. I do a lot of these written interviews. I almost would like to collect them. I do these email interviews and I sometimes put a lot of effort into them. But, I think sex is always, obviously, very fascinating and is this little theater where all sorts of issues and problems can express themselves between two people, or one person. And so as an arena to like explore a character, that’s why I like a character’s troubles or heart, or perversions – not perversions, but inclinations. That’s why I’m drawn to writing about sex. Not so much for the physical act, though it’s not bad to titillate people also too. Because a lot of times people read books and they love the sex parts. “Oh, that’s what its like for me to be in bed.” Especially if you’re honest about it about how difficult it might be, or how insecure one might be, or the thinking one has while making love. So, it’s one more area to connect to the reader and to make them feel less alone as well as, like I said, exploring what really makes a person a person, and a lot of times that’s most expressed in their sexuality.
Question: Do you have any personal stories with Craigslist?
Jonathan Ames: I’ve never personally used Craigslist for anything. But at one time, I used to love to read all the ads where people wanted to meet people. All the variety – Henry James’ brother, William James, wrote the book The Varieties of Religious Experience or something like that. Well “Craig’s List” was the varieties of sexual experience. I mean, I would read these ads and some would be like, “I live in Ohio, and I want to come to New York and be transformed into a woman and be your maid.” And it was so plaintive, and a lot of times it was very well written. Or someone else specifically wanted this kind of sexual act, or someone else just wanted to be in love. And it was all these narratives. I was just kind of drawn to this mad chorus on Craigslist of need.
But I never knew part two of any of the stories. I wanted to write to the people and say, “Did you meet someone?” Or, you would read one ad, “I want this.” And then someone would write, “I want this.” I’m like, why don’t they connect. You know, they’re each looking for the coefficient. Don’t they see that ad? I hope they hood up. You know. But mostly for me, it was just a source of reading material. I’ve never actually used Craigslist to purchase anything in any way.
Recorded on: November 4, 2009
Striving for titillation may be fun, but for Jonathan Ames the true aim of writing about the act is somewhat cathartic--if only he could reach all of those needy souls posting odd desires on Craigslist.
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