Something is missing from Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child. He’s left out the explicit sex scenes that were a signature feature of his four previous novels, and the absence amounts to something of a riddle. Why does Hollinghurst avoid the fleshy details? Why the sudden prudery?
If Alan Hollinghurst can be accused of “prudery,” who’s safe from the charge? Larry Flynt? I probably shouldn’t say anything, because a lede like this is just how Slate does business, but seriously: Have we come to a point where writing explicitly about sex is obligatory, at least for writers who have done so in the past?
Though, come to think of it, this may have less to do with sex per se than with the expectations readers bring to books. How dare Hollinghurst try something he hasn’t tried before? How dare he surprise me?