Literary sex

If, as Kurt Vonnegut declares, unusual travel invitations are dancing lessons from God, then the invites have been running hot this week. Wednesday’s memorable seder was followed by last night’s…reading? at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco. Minal Hajratwala’s memories of her Indian family, Stacie Boschma’s slam reading that was the very definition of performance poetry, Sean Stewart’s oddly moving dialogue between Yoda and Count Dracu, and Pam Houston giving us four cities and four adventures from a work in progress. Three of the four were about sex, more or less. In a bar packed to the brim with nicely intoxicated and enthusiastically raucous literary enthusiasts, who hooted loudly at the mention of, well, pretty much anything—body parts, Star Wars, bifocal lenses—made for the kind of reading you won’t see in too many parts of the world.

I hadn’t been to The Make-Out Room before, but I had a pretty good idea what I was in for: sex scenes. However, as you may have noticed, the Russell & Holmes novels don’t do a whole lot of sex, and I didn’t want to read from one of the older books that has a more graphic scene (anyway, as graphic as I do) such as Darker Place or Touchstone. So I read a discussion from Language of Bees between Mary Russell and 87 year old Clarice Ledger about sex. And black mass, and punting, and grouse.

The audience was very polite. Still, I couldn’t help thinking that they’d prefer the Touchstone scene where the young politician has symbolic intercourse with his lover’s country manor house.

Maybe next time…

And if you’re looking for something to do in SF on the second Saturday of the month, drop in at the Make-Out Room. Tell Charlie Jane (the world’s most enthusiastic MC) that Laurie sent you.


  1. Laidee Marjorie on April 12, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I love that Vonnegut quote, try to live by it, and I had just recently paraphrased it on another author’s site. Thanks for the report, Laurie. Although your scenes of intimacy in the Russell books and the Martinelli books are brief wisps, they are also very character driven and I am not sure that they work out of the context of the whole book and for people who don’t know your literary worlds. For instance, I find the scene in MOOR where Russell doesn’t tell Holmes about her experience with a corpse until the morning because they are busy with comforting each other to be very sensuous. And I am in the midst of a All-Martinelli-All-The-Time reading frenzy right now (almost done with “Night Work”) and I find the small physical moments between Kate and Lee to be very moving. It’s all quite jealousy inducing to a very single woman like myself.

    Thanks for letting us know about this event. It has brought me to the Center for Sex and Culture’s website and from there to all sorts of interesting links (for adult visitors). Perhaps the Center can do some sort of event one evening at the time of Bouchercon 2010 as a fundraiser. Erotic Russell or Kate Fanfiction Slams, Anyone?


  2. strawberry curls on April 12, 2009 at 9:25 am

    “…I had a pretty good idea what I was in for: sex scenes” “Sean Stewart’s oddly moving dialogue between Yoda and Count Dracu…”

    When reading the above my mind kept going to the Sesame Street song, “Which of these thing is not like the other?” and that had me picturing “The Count” reeling off numbers while in discussion with Yoda, instead of the more sinister Count Dracu. Two Muppets having a chat is something I can wrap my head around, but adding sex into it, well, that stretches my ability to imagine. Sounds like a “stimulating” evening, though.

  3. Laidee Marjorie on April 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Correction on my part! I actually meant the scene in MOOR where Russell goes directly to her room after their long trek around the moor. When Holmes returns to the room after dinner, (dressed in his appealing formal wear), they push aside conversation in favor of other things. Sorry about that. It’s funny how the mind bends things.


  4. Susan on April 16, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I agree with the “less is more” method regarding sensuous moments between Russell and Holmes. I am rereading the series, and just read the part in the Moor last night(when I should have been asleep) when Holmes returns home at 3 AM to find Russell battered and reaching for something heavy in their room. The reference that Holmes always knows the right thing to do in a given situation said enough for me.

    I have let myself get so saturated in these books recently, dodging studying, that I actually dreamed Mary Russell last night. My (formerly) long hair was drifting out of a bun, and I was dating a much older man. I could not pull off the height, however, as I am only 5 feet tall. It was odd to wake up with that memory. Perhaps I should return to my textbooks.


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