Literary Fiction

An Open Letter to Dave Eggers

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

This man writes awkward sex scenes.

This man writes awkward sex scenes.

Dear Dave,

Can I call you Dave? When I teach A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, I call you Eggers. But I feel like we know each other pretty well now, since I’ve read almost all of your books and you…Have received minute royalties in that exchange. I dunno. I figure we’re tight now.

I have a bone to pick with you. (This is a clever double-entendre. You just don’t know it yet.)

I am not so annoyed with you as some of my blogosphere colleagues. Apparently, the hipsters have turned on you. I am, as it happens, a hipster — I found this out playing Cards Against Humanity this weekend, when I played the”hipster” card in a pointed way at my husband, and had this exchange with my friend:

Friend: You, in the pigtail braids, Milk Carton Kids t-shirt, and plaid leggings, are calling him a hipster?

Me: I lack self-awareness.

So people like me are turning against you, I guess? I don’t know, did you release a missive against the Milk Carton Kids? (Maybe you haven’t heard the hauntingly beautiful “Michigan”?) Anyway, I guess I haven’t kept up. I’m not mad at you for not liking Twitter or having problems with social media or thinking Google might be secretly evil (I basically agree with you on that point). But I am about 3/4 of the way through The Circle and while I don’t at all hate it (you’re a wee bit heavy handed, but I get it, internet is bad and all that), I need you to make me a promise.

Stop writing sex scenes.

And especially, stop writing female-focalized sex scenes.

You are very very very bad at it. Very bad. Not at all good. Poor. Quite poor. Please stop it.

These are some of the most awkward sex scenes I have encountered ever in literature. You’ve never been great at this, by the way, but the added trauma of seeing you do this via your estimation of how a woman experiences sex is so cringeworthy as to be painful. And I’m listening to it on audiobook. I’m listening on audiobook to a male narrator describe a female protagonist’s encounters with all manner of “vigorous” things “straining” (straining, Dave?) and depictions of the love interest “grunting his arrival” (that one was REALLY NOT OK) with “his fingers crawling inward” (STOP IT). We can’t do this anymore, you and I. You have to stop.

I will continue to read your books — I’ll even go back and read A Hologram for the King, even though everyone says it is terrible — if you promise to stop writing sex scenes.

I feel like this is fair.

Dave Eggers, you can end cringing in your lifetime. Just take the power to say no.



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