I recently read the review of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and present this excerpt: << Yanagihara told The Guardian: “One of the things my editor and I did fight about is the idea of how much a reader can take,” and you’ll find it hard to find another mainstream literary fiction that equals the most egregious “misery memoir” for its plot lines >> (19 Jan. 2016).
I, too, have been asked about “how much a reader can take,” and I wrestled with the question long before I showed the text to any of my beta readers. Of course, I can provide no answer, but I devoutly hope that readers will either succumb to their curiosity about the “unknown” or else simply skim over certain passages.
The Passion of Elena Bianchi is first and foremost a love story. It involves classical music (and musicians), the Holocaust, the Mafia (actually the Camorra, or Neapolitan version), the psychic and occult worlds, reincarnation through “soul fractions,” and — yes — kinky sex. However, this is not the sanitized “kink” of the Fifty Shades books. It is the “real deal,” here manifesting as hard-core, sadomasochistic impact play. The scenes between Elena and Giovanni (my heroine and hero) are not for the faint of heart, but they are surprisingly realistic. Some people make love through the medium of sex; others make love through the medium of pain — and, of course, some make love through both. Elena is no longer capable of orgasm through vanilla sex. She requires either considerable pain or what Giovanni will later call “the Theater of the Perverse.”
I did not write the books to shock people. On the contrary, I cite the prevalence of aberrant sexual behavior that is far more common within the artistic community than within the population at large. Moreover, as I shall discuss in the next blog entry, the kinky scenes are by no means written to titillate the reader. They are structurally vital.
Precisely why so many musicians have been drawn to such "perversions" is beyond the scope of this blog. However, they are a fact of life, even as the horrors of World War Two, organized crime, and the prevalence of “flawed” people are facts of life.
As we shall see, Elena and Giovanni will later adopt their goddaughter and become extraordinarily wonderful, nurturing, and supportive parents. I did not interpolate these parts of the narrative in the hope they would somehow "mitigate" the natural predilections of my focal characters. I merely hope that readers will begin to respect the fact that some of us are different, and that rather than pre-judge people on the basis of their sexual preferences (or orientations), perhaps we should instead consider them as the unique individuals they truly are,.