One of my favorite lines of poetry is from Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour,” when the narrator ends a stanza with the admission “My mind’s not right,” which I think about often. Such as when I spend way too much time thinking about William Faulkner writing porn scripts.
To back up a moment, I’m reading David Rakoff’s very enjoyable essay collection Half Empty at the moment, and one essay is a reasonably good version of what has become a pretty tired trope—the writer visiting a porn set/adult convention. Yes, we get it, writers—you’re all very witty, urbane sophisticates, and here you are talking to people who fuck for a living. What a wacky juxtaposition! I’ve got a crazy idea for your next field trip: go to a political rally, only—and this is the best part—have it be one for people who belong to another party! In a flyover state! Can you imagine?!!
I don’t know why, but reading the essay made me think that the people who write scripts for porn movies (such as they have scripts anymore) have to be either the happiest or most miserable writers in movies. On the happy side, since you know full well that 90% of your dialogue will be skipped past on the way to the next lovin’ scene, you could write pretty much anything and nobody would be any the wiser (yes, I did think of Logjammin’ at this point). On the unhappy side, what if you take the time to write really good, thoughtful dialogue, only to realize that 95% of your audience, if they hear any of it at all, will hear it because they’re worried that they might skip past the beginning of that DP scene they’ve been hearing about?
Which led, in a perfectly logical way, to William Faulkner writing porn as part of his drink-soaked Hollywood days. Which led to the following, typed into my phone in a coffee shop.
Jackson regarded the sheets. I have cum, he said. I have cum more than anyone else has ever cum. I have expelled great oceans of seed and nothing shall ever come from them. I have had the orgasm of an already-dead world from which nothing will ever grow again.
The man—whose name he still didn’t know—stood up. You sonofabitch, he said. I told you to watch out. Now I need to wash my hair again.
With the shower running in the other room, Jackson poured himself a glass of whisky and set it down again. He wound his watch and put it down on the table. He looked at the door. All is futility, he said. I have cum, and now I must go.
And he sat. And sat. And sat some more.