Jack’s Naughty Bits: William Styron, Sophie’s Choice

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Jack's Naughty Bits

Tongue. Getting tongue, giving tongue. Sucking face. Frenching, french-kissing (but no French Lick, mind you, except in Indiana). As I’ve written before, I couldn’t be a bigger fan of kissing, but I’ve never been much for frenching, even in France (where, as with their similarly miss-appelled fry, it seems not to be their forte). Something about the wriggliness of tongues moving in mouths other than their own reminds me of irked and predatory morays leering out of coral embankments. A tiny bit of tongue is okay, but it should never jut, nor dig, nor probe, nor slip along the teeth. All these are, to me, exceedingly vulgar and detract from the sublime nobility of kissing — lips mashed, heads pressed together, preferably with the dishwasher girl in the alley behind the motor oil drums . . .

I realize that my one-tongue-in-my-mouth-at-a-time maximum is not commonly instituted. Many people seem to like lingual interloping, at least if one is to judge by their own kissing practice. How many times have I had to flee just-crumpled sheets to escape oral excavation, my uvula battered and scraped and set to scab and peel later in little gag-inducing flakes! Quelle horreur!The French should have left their reprehensible practices on their own shores. If only people would stick to what I call eskimo frenching, that delicate, back and forth, glottal pas de deux that allows the tongue to actualize itself fully as a refined instrument, the tool of the trade of such varied aesthetes as Paul Prudhomme and Dizzy Gillespie. But no, the unWaterpik-ed throng insist on all their prodding and poking, driving tongue-points toward the larynx like atavism-crazed lemmings. Pity.

And thus it is with no small amount of trepidation that I present the following excerpt, a conspicuous blight in an otherwise, by turns, delightful and harrowing masterpiece, William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. Though many people find it sexy, I pray, dear reader, that you do not. If you do, seek help.


From Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Side by side we gazed at the landscape. In the shadows her face was so close to mine that I could smell the sweet ropy fragrance of the sherry she had been drinking, and then her tongue was in my mouth. In all truth I had not invited this prodigy of a tongue; turning, I had merely wished to look at her face, expecting only that the expression of aesthetic delight I might find there would correspond to what I knew was my own. But I did not even catch a glimpse of her face, so instantaneous and urgent was that tongue. Plunged like some writhing sea-shape into my gaping maw, it all but overpowered my sense as it sought some unreachable terminus near my uvula; it wiggled, it pulsated, and made contortive sweeps of my mouth’s vault: I’m certain that at least once it turned upside down. Dolphin-slippery, less wet than rather deliciously mucilaginous and tasting of Amontillado, it had the power in itself to force me, or somehow get me back, against a doorjamb, where I lolled helpless with my eyes clenched shut, in a trance of tongue. How long this went on I do not know but when at last it occurred to me to reciprocate or try to, and began to unlimber my own tongue with a gargling sound, I felt hers retract like a deflated bladder, and she pulled her mouth away from mine, then pressed her face against my cheek. “We can’t just now,” she said in an agitated tone. I thought I could feel her shudder, but I was certain only that she was breathing heavily, and I held her tightly in my arms. I murmured, “God, Leslie . . . Les” — it was all I could summon — and then she broke apart from me. The grin she was now grinning seemed a little inappropriate to our turbulent emotion, and her voice took on a soft, light-hearted, even trifling quality, which nonetheless, by force of its meaning, left me close to an insanity of desire. It was the familiar tune but piped this time on an even sweeter reed. “Fucking,” she said, her whisper barely audible as she gazed at me, “fantastic . . . fucking.” Then she turned and went back toward the living room.