__ How was it

for you?

It’s official: sex can, and does, go wrong. In fact, in a new anthology, it goes wrong in twenty-one different ways. Gavin Inglis takes advantage of the opportunity to talk

about it.

‘I knew I wasn’t the only person who’d had occasional experiences of sex that were less than magic all the way through. So why weren’t people writing about it? Why was it not acknowledged more? I started mentioning it to people. notjust writers. and it was really astonishing how people leapt at the idea. Their faces lit up. and they said “Yeah! Great! At last someone’s doing this!” which was quite amusing. really.‘

So says John Hoyland. editor of Bad Set. a collection of short stories chronicling sexual encounters and relationships that were never destined to make the Earth move. The subject, he found. was one on which plenty of writers were ready to exercise their imagination. ‘lt’s an incredibly rich area, I think. Having said that, l was very. very startled by the variety of ways people interpreted the theme.

Although I think there’s plenty more to be said. I got an abundance. a breadth of material that I hadn’t expected. In that sense. the thing said more than I expected, because people came at it from such different angles, which is great.’

In Mary Scott’s story, the main character uses men for sex that is pretty satisfying, breezing from partner to partner. motivated primarily by the fact that it helps her sleep better. Rejecting absolutely any lingering attachment, in the end she buys a vibrator. ‘From her point of view it’s about good sex.‘ Scott explains, ‘but on the other hand, if you step outside the character. it’s her attitude to sex that makes it bad. It’s logical for her to end up with a vibrator because that’s what she’s been doing all the time, using men as vibrator substitutes rather than the other way round. I think that’s where I got the idea from. I suppose, in a sense, my notion of bad sex in that story was sex without any feelings.’

An absence of feeling is something echoed by several other stories in the book. Eroica Mildmay’s contribution, on the other hand, realistically addresses a genuinely sad experience. investing it with an atmosphere of inevitability. She feels the time is definitely right for the book. ’lt’s really good to think that for once in a world of rnulti-orgasms. and “are you getting enough?" and “surfers do it standing up” that actually, it often isn’t that great for people. I think a lot of people get involved in things that they really aren’t 100 per cent convinced about. Maybe, as well, in a world of AIDS, people just ought to think, I don’t have

to be super-man, super-sex, super- woman. super-being, super-everything. l deliberately took a sad tale because I think people don’t admit they got involved with things they didn’t particularly enjoy. It’s not something that‘s discussed. It’s not a taboo, but it's not discussed. People don't discuss their failures. not really. Not the really “oh my God. what a waste of time” onesf

The seeds of revolution are often quietly sown. Who’s to say that if this book were widely read we might not become a more honest nation. discussing sexual failure over coffee. and all the stronger for it? Give your lover one for Christmas? Ha-ha. there comes the crunch. Bad Sex is published by Serpent 's 7211'! at £7.99.

Eroica Mildmay

Mary Scott

_ So you think

you’re funny?

Craig McLean finds out if he’s game for a laugh.

As Christmas presents go, few rank with the ‘novelty/humour’ book. Cheap. trashy, to be indolently and desultorily flicked through on the couch midway through the omnibus version of Eastenders and just before Granpa starts snoring in his armchair. The satisfaction is fleeting, the afterglow feeble. Just like Christmas.

Boys’ Own irony anyone? Glen Baxter‘s world is one of heavy tweed jackets. pretty frocks, Brylcreem. lantern jaws. and young John and Jane types wearing shorts and sensible shoes. Into the rosy glow of this post- War, high-Empire period. The Collected Blurtings oi Baxter (Little, Brown £5.99) injects liberal doses of (druggy?) surreality. pinning baldly ludicrous statements to elegantly drawn scenes. ‘He took her in his arms,‘ goes the caption to a Lichtenstein-meets- Bogey-and-Bacall (or-is-it-Reeves-and- Mortimer?) drawing, ‘and gently squeezed her goatee.’ But at six quid for a book that takes approximately ten minutes to read. you’d better dig that art big-style.

Graham Rawle’s Wonder Book of Fun (Gollancz £l L99) is equally clever- clever. Too clever-clever. deadpanly





Fred's adventures cerium, ceretesy ot aw Faucett.

offering a puzzle-book reeking of Victoriana/parlour game fustiness. His Weekend Guardian lost Consonants are much better. More from The Guardian is to be found in The Return of Urban Myths (Virgin £4.99) by Healey and Glanvill. A friend of a friend had a great idea: invent elaborate shaggy-dog stories about ordinary punters. tack on wince-some endings (toothbmsh/buni/photograph is a personal fave) and milk it for millions.

Brilliant. But then he realised: he’d left his underpants on the television. Boom- boom.

Ho-hum. The Punt & Dennis Instant library (4th Estate £7.99) styles itself as all the books you’d ever need The Victorian Lovers’ Guide. Cooking With Milk, Davina: Her Untrue Story. The Runesword Of Trollsbane etc. Unfortunately, like the inverse ofa Readers’ Digest condensed book. all the funny bits have been filleted out.

Gary Larson. he’s above all this unseemly festive publishing frippery. He’s the master. This you can tell because The Far Side Gallery 4 (Warner £7.99) has the most lavish. most 31) cover in humourdom. ‘Gary Larson is to cartooning what JoJo the Dogfacerl Boy is to circus freaks.’ writes Robin Williams in his foreword. Verily. In Larson Land the humans are ‘lumpy troglodytes with had eyesight. buck teeth and eowlicks’. As ever. an inspired and consistently surreal spurt of cartooning. Who‘d have thought flora and fauna could be so much fun? John Callahan. that‘s who. His Digesting The Child Within (Statics £5.99) collection is decidedly Larsonesque, although more artistically scrappy and funnily fuzzy. He is a quadriplegic though. so fair enough.

As reaffirmed by Rupert Faweett in The Continuing Adventures Of Fred (Statics £5.99). our eponymous hero is only socially disabled. Andy Capp meets Raymond Biggs for much sofa- centric wit and suburban burblings. ; Equally cosy is The Days Are Just ; Packed (Warner £5.99). Bill Watterson’s latest Calvin and Hobbes collection. Cute. cloying. cat ‘n‘ kid cracks. Fluffy humour: a Beavis and Butthead for your wee sister.

Or stuff it all and poop the festive jollity. Get life’s little Destruction Book (Warner £3.99). ’51.? boorish. insensitive and socially obnoxious pointers for leading a simple. self- centred life.’ Number 513: agree to do a Christmas book round-up. blag a dozen or so of the new titles. then dispense them round your relatives as gifts. ’Tis the season to be stingy. I

The List I9 November—2 December I993 77