Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Banging the ugly one

When does it stop being provocative and brave and becomes just simply boring? I mean books where one (mostly male writer) goes through his disgust towards his wife and the repulsive idea of having sex with this woman who is getting fat. I mean those novels where the writer goes on and on, a page after a page about the smell of sweat, the woman's body hair and her flat breasts. Where sex is turned into something as exciting as eating a spagetti dish found from the back of the fridge. Without ketchup.

This question stems from reading two recently published Finnish novels. Both are praised by critics as brave and what have you. I am talking about the winner of the Helsingin Sanomat literature prize, Armas Alvari's Varmat tapaukset and rockstar-gone-novelist Kauko Röyhkä's Avec.

I don't know whether the problem is the topic or their skills. I have been reading these two books page after page and find myself thinking: I have read this before and this is so quasi-brave. Röyhkä builds on sensationalism while Alvari trusts on describing the boring life most of us live. Describing spanking or watching your daughter having sex in full detail has all been done before. And most importantly: better.

Or maybe my standards are just a bit higher after reading Finland's Charles Bukowski, Henrik Tikkanen over the holidays. Tikkanen goes through his neglecting alcoholic parents, failed marriages, sex adventures with prostitutes and his own love affairs and alcoholism in a way which is at the same time witty, sad and funny. This is one of those few books which I plan to read a couple of times. Just a short quote (sorry for the poor translation):

"Was I able to suffer? Every time I had tried suffering, I had fallen out of the role and the whole suffering had started to feel silly. My sense of humour failed me. It was difficult for me to get going the sentimental feeling, which is the basis in Finland for creating art, oppressing the women and declaring patriotism. I lacked the purity of the feeling which is the foundation of all greatness."
- Henrik Tikkanen (1976): Majavatie 11

1 comment:

Anni said...

It's so nice to hear a man say this out aloud. I've also been quite bored with these middle-aged men writing blogs and books about how they hate their wives.

But if I, as a woman, would say things like this, everybody would think I'm just angry because somebody is writing unpleasant things about women. I'm not saying, that women should be treated differently, nor that they shouldn't be criticised, but I just don't understand why it is so cool to hate older women and their bodies.