The sucking sound of lips

26 05 2011

“I leap to attention an inch from her face”

“the sucking sound of lips on lips, with saliva exchanged”

“she entered the cinema and felt a line of current run through her body”

Once you’ve read Rajpal Abeynayake and A.S.H. Smyth on Blue, there really isn’t much more to say. Sri Lankan English writing is generally amateurish and there is no reason to expect anything radically different from this. There are a few interesting stories in it – Marti’s and Ameena Hussein’s stories for instance. But beyond that, the critics’ views hold hold true. We can’t be expected to like anything and everything in the name of erotica and there is a reason why sites such as Writing World and The Erotica Readers and Writers Association give you advice on writing erotica.

From a queer perspective, however, Blue is interesting – it is the first time that a number of queer short stories have appeared in a collection of Sri Lankan short stories. In a collection of about a dozen short stories, four stories bring us sex between women and one describes a sexual encounter between men (albeit one very young one). Even if you consider Blue only as “fiction” and ignore the “erotica” side of it, this is significant in the Sri Lankan context, because queer desire is represented rarely in literature.

Whatever its literary merit (or paucity of same) it also raised a discussion on the nature of erotica as a genre. I have heard various questions consequent to Blue: is erotica the same as porn? Is erotica as explicit as porn? Should erotica have a storyline? All I can say is that I need a lot more sex, a lot less purple prose, a lot more finesse and a lot less description of the setting for it to be erotica.

‘Scorching’ the publishers claim it to be. The wrong adjective I think.





Dear Sarah

27 02 2011

I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your first name, even though we have never met. You see, the thing is, I feel like I know you – although I don’t. I only know your writing. And your writing is not YOU but I am having a hard time separating the two right now. But that is only because I am upset.

As your avid reader, I feel like I own a bit of your writing. After all, I have read every single one of your books as well as your inclusion in Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists 2003’. I have also watched all the movie adaptations of your books. I even voted for you and cheered for you when you were shortlisted for the Booker in 2006 for The Night Watch and I am still devastated that you didn’t win.

So you can imagine what I am feeling right now, having just read The Little Stranger, your latest novel.  Like all your other books, I did enjoy this as well. But I just can’t understand why you have deleted lesbians from the book! It is your only book without any lesbian characters or references. And you know better than anyone that there is a dearth of good fiction out there with strong lesbian characters and I was so proud of your work. You made me proud to be who I am. And now you have deleted us! Aren’t there enough authors out there who write about British class issues and gothic novels and scary stories? And since I am not even British or Victorian, those elements of your books are often incidental to me. But not the characters – they are what connect me to you. And you have severed that connection now.  What do you expect me to do? And more importantly, how do you intend to repair our relationship?





Herstories

4 11 2009

A friend of mine was traveling to New York recently and because I wanted to grab the opportunity to order some good lesbian books online and have her bring them back home, I started my search very excitedly on Amazon. I typed in the search words ‘Asian + lesbian’ but very little turned up. I then added the word ‘South’ before ‘Asian’ to the search words… but again not much came up. So I added the word ‘queer’.

This produced far more results than the other categories so I started browsing the titles and reading the excerpts. But sadly in spite of the volume of results of the search, I found very little of relevance to my life…or to what I think is representative of my life.

I tried searching other online stores as well. All of them had a large selection of gay and lesbian literature and many of the titles seemed interesting. Most of the literature was out of America and not by Asian writers. I was looking for something more Asian – more South Asian really and more Sri Lankan to be precise. That would have been perfect.

And I was looking for something lesbian – not male-centric. Comics, novels, novellas, fiction, non-fiction, I searched all the categories but found almost nothing. Two choices did come up though: Facing the mirror: Lesbian writing from India which i have read and have no great opinion of and Stealing Nazreen – a novel which I have yet to read.

Besides these two books there was nothing of real significance – and certainly nothing from Sri Lanka.

And then it struck me. We need to write our own ‘Herstories’!

That is the only way we will gain more visibility through literature. It really is our responsibility – to ourselves and to the next generation of young soul-searching Sri Lankan lesbians – to make them feel less alone and that they are not the first to be this way and will certainly not be the last.

We need to write our stories to ensure we are not omitted from the pages of history. We have to create our own language where none exists – to describe our lives and what and who we are. We can’t keep expecting other people to write the stories of our lives when we are the ones living them. No. We have to write our own stories and our own histories…and the time is now.

So I sat down and started writing…