“Film Critics Seem to Have a Greater Sense of Community”

So it was written, and I agreed.

On the other hand ... .

For what it’s worth, the following sentence made me stop taking seriously Lauren Wissot’s initial piece, and that puts me among the author’s detractors:

“For example, a few weeks back I had fantastic afternoon sex with a hot bodybuilder — the tryst ending badly afterwards when we got into a heated debate over John Barrymore and Marlene Dietrich (who he feels are both vastly overrated).”

The problem here is a simple one of construction: The emphasis is in the wrong place. The nature of the sex isn’t relevant — fantastic, afternoon, or the hotness of the bodybuilder — yet it dominates not just the sentence but the paragraph and the whole damned essay. What’s important is treated structurally as an afterthought and is consequently lost.

The sentence could have easily been made more effective, and more appropriate to the piece:

“A recent tryst with a bodybuilder ended badly when we got into a heated debate over John Barrymore and Marlene Dietrich (who he feels are both vastly overrated).”

We all write bum sentences (and pieces) now and again, but this one by Wissot is pretty egregiously (and unnecessarily) self-involved. And this comes from someone who would know.

Why does this bother you so much?

Because the point is that a bodybuilder was knowledgeable about Barrymore and Dietrich, yet it’s an aside in this sentence.

The subject of the sentence is “I,” and the predicate is “had ... sex,” and the prepositional object is “with a ... bodybuilder.” How does that have anything to do with what the essay is about?

The sin is compounded by the modifiers: “fantastic afternoon sex with a hot bodybuilder.” The quality of the sex, the time of day, and the attractiveness of the bodybuilder are not germane.

The ostensible meat of the sentence follows a dash, so its content is rendered incidental.

It’s just bad writing.

My point remains that I believe the author would have gotten far less negative reaction had she written that passage more carefully.

But I’m guessing you just think I’m a prude, or afraid of women’s sexuality.

Why would you guess that? It was a simple question.

Perhaps it was the tenor of the discussion at The House Next Door, in which the author accused her critics of being misogynist pigs for objecting to references to her sex life (and in which her critics were pretty uncivil).

Perhaps it was that in offering an alternative to the sentence in my original piece, I thought I was being clear that I thought the problem was in the writing and not the content.

Perhaps it was the vague nature of “Why does this bother you so much?” (Emphasis added.)

So let’s start over.

If by “this” you mean that particular sentence, I’m generally bothered by bad writing.

If by “this” you mean something else, please clarify. Lots of things bother me.

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