Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - A novel in progress (first chapter here).
Like his bandmates, Walter was relieved that the group could lapse for a while as midterms approached. He had to write a paper for Lit.Hum. that he hadn't started yet. He decided to do it on More's Utopia, since he'd been familiar with it since high school thanks to AP English and thus had already read it all instead of just the sections on the syllabus. He like More too, as a person, though granted that was based on the play A Man for All Seasons. The stubbornness of his position in regard to Henry VIII was something Walter identified with, though he doubted he'd be willing to be executed over anything no matter how right he thought he was.
He wanted to write something good enough that Professor Starr wouldn't be disappointed with him. The prof had always seemed to enjoy Walter's contributions to class discussions, which were a big part of the grade. Unlike his experiences in his Poli.Sci. electives, Walter could hold his own in Lit.Hum. discussions, where almost everybody was a freshman just as he was. But Professor Starr had offered criticisms of the papers Walter had written the previous semester, so he wanted to be perfect this time. Picking a familiar book for his paper topic might help.
Professor Starr had said of most of what they'd read this semester that it was intended as criticism of the author's society. Probably it was safest to use that idea as an approach to writing about Utopia. There was his title: The Utopia as Social Criticism. Should he narrow the focus? He had to write at least five pages; perhaps better to not narrow yet.
Thomas More's Utopia has earned him many reputations through the years, as a Communist, among other things. In this work, he depicts an island in the New World which is governed by principles and laws that are an antithesis to those of the Old World. It is inhabited by contented people who lead happy lives because their community is ideally organized. Yet, this is fiction: More has created these laws, which contrast severely with the established laws and customs of his own civilization, in order to show that the laws of 16th century England were producing undesirable effects and desperately needed reform, not because he felt that the laws that he describes in his imaginary world are ideal. There can in fact be no Utopia (which means "Noplace") when civilization develops, as it must, in piecemeal fashion. For a society to develop so perfectly would require the evasion of both chance and the subsequent logical organization of the situations that occur haphazardly. In its formation and development, Utopia resembles an artist's clay model, shaped by the artist's design. It is a controlled, in fact very nearly a closed, environment.
This circumstance is acknowledged in the history of the foundation of the nation by Utopus. Upon conquering a peninsular nation of undeveloped savages, "he immediately had a channel cut through the fifteen-mile isthmus connecting Utopia with the mainland, so that the sea could flow all around it." (p. 70) From then on, he had a free hand in guiding the fortunes of his new territory, for Nature had provided him with every convenience. The harbor was impervious to enemy attack, the island had every natural resource needed, with the single exception of iron, and apparently was full of the most malleable, receptive savages that could be desired.
After a couple of hours, Walter had managed to go on like that for another seven pages, with about a third of that being indented quotes. His favorite was:
In fact, when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can't, so help me God, see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organizing society. (p. 130)
It was time to wrap it up with a conclusion:
The Utopia's role is thus as a basis of comparison, to show us which of our errors are correctable by showing up their superfluous nature. This is the Rawlsian position which says Utopias exist to shame us into realizing how lacking our actual societies are in comparison. With More's constant juxtaposition of the Old World vs. the New, this intent is fairly obvious.
On Monday morning, he turned in his paper at Professor Starr's office. Later in the day after Music Hum., Rachel asked Walter for another tutoring session to get ready for their Music Hum midterm. He hesitated briefly, then agreed to once again go to her apartment on Tuesday. He had been so disappointed by her having a boyfriend that he'd had an impulse to turn her down. Accepting seemed potentially awkward, but it would bring him a little money. And although their first afternoon together hadn't led to the kind of relationship he wanted, it wasn't as though he hadn't enjoyed it at the time. After all, she might break up with her boyfriend someday, and then Walter could be perfectly positioned to replace him.
Just as on his first visit, she tossed her keys out the window to him. He thought she looked like she was wearing a robe. He assumed that, if that were the case, she'd be changed by the time he'd finished climbing all the stairs to her top-floor apartment. But no: when she opened her door, she was still wearing a robe. He didn't know what to think, so he just kept quiet and waited to see what would happen. Rachel smiled and asked, "Cat got your tongue?" He smiled back, but said nothing.
"Pussy wants your tongue," she whispered. He smiled again, his disappointments drowned in anticipation. This would do until a real relationship came along. She dramatically opened her robe wide, holding a campy pose; she'd been utterly naked under her robe. He dropped to his knees, slid his hands up the backs of her thighs, cupped her bare buttocks in his hands, and pushed his face into her dirty-blond bush. Rachel squatted slightly to open her thighs, and Walter's tongue flicked out into her fur, seeking her slit, soon found. Remembering his lesson from Janie, he licked up and down, found Rachel's clit, and circled around it, occasionally fluttering his tongue-tip directly on it. Rachel grabbed his hair and pressed herself against his face. His nose was now squashed into her pelvis and he had to gasp for breath through his mouth in between licks, but he kept a rhythm going and soon could feel her legs trembling. "Oh god, oh god, oh god," she chanted breathily. Her legs shook more, and her fingers pulled his hair painfully.
Relief for Walter's scalp came when she commanded, "I've gotta lie down." As she backed up the few steps to her bed, finally shrugging off her robe along the way, she added, "Jesus fucking Christ, you're good. How'd you learn to do that?"
"Practice," he joked.
Sprawling back on the bed, up on her elbows, she inquired, "How are you doing? Was that fun for you?"
"Yes." He grinned.
"Did it turn you on?"
"Let me see!"
Walter unbuttoned, unzipped, and stepped out of his jeans and his briefs at the same time, proudly displaying his rock-hard erection. He was still wearing not only his shirt but also his jacket; he quickly shed those as well.
"Put that beautiful cock right here," she commanded while pressing her breasts together, "so I can watch it spurt."
Climbing onto her mattress, he straddled her chest and she wrapped her soft, voluminous cleavage around his throbbing flesh. Her skin was so smooth that no lubrication was needed, and within minutes he had climaxed.
"Oooo, you gave me a pearl necklace, how nice!" Rachel exclaimed.
"What?" Walter grunted, confused.
"That's what this is called," she explained, gesturing to the drops of white fluid on her neck. "A pearl necklace." Walter laughed.
Rachel excused herself to wash up, and Walter re-dressed and took out his materials for this week's lesson. When Rachel returned, he had his notes and cassette tape of examples all ready. She donned her robe again and he launched into his mini-lecture as though he were not sitting on a bed with a barely dressed woman who had just brought him to orgasm with just her chest.
"We've been comparing Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. I assume we will have to be able to identify examples of their music on the midterm. So let's try that." Walter started the tape and the first movement of a Haydn piano sonata played. After a minute, he queried, "Who wrote this?"
"Close, but no -- Haydn." He fast-forwarded the tape. "Who wrote this one?"
"Right!" More fast-forwarding brought forth an early Beethoven piano sonata, and she correctly identified the composer again.
"But I was guessing. I said Mozart the second time because you'd already played Haydn so I didn't think you would play him twice in a row, and then when you confirmed it was Mozart, I guessed Beethoven next because you hadn't played him yet. Really, I can't tell those three pieces apart."
Walter realized that teaching required more than just understanding the topic. Perhaps paying closer attention to Professor Hatch's presentation would be edifying in that regard. He thought to himself to the accompaniment of the Beethoven sonata's continuation.
"Okay, do you remember what sonata-allegro form is?"
"Can you describe it?
"Fast opening movement, slow middle movement, fast last movement?"
Holy shit, Walter thought, what was she thinking about during class? Did she not take notes? It wasn't as though he had heard any more about sonata form than what Professor Hatch had said to the class. Oh well, her lack of attention was getting him paid, and laid. Hey, that rhymed. Well, not really laid. Okay, focus.
"It's about the structure of the first movement, which is generally fast, as you say, though sometimes with a slow introduction, though that doesn't really count. Anyway, because the first movement is often Allegro, that's why it's called sonata-allegro form, though a composer could use this structure for any movement, and some have. Also, this form is not only used in sonatas, but also for symphonies and string quartets. Sonata-allegro form was invented in the early Classical period when music was evolving into a more strongly chordal style. There are three sections in a sonata-allegro form: the exposition, when the theme or themes are played first; the development section, when thematic or motivic material from the exposition is moved through different keys and varied, and the recapitulation, when the themes come back as a sort of book-end to the exposition. The way these three composers handle these sections can help us recognize who's who."
Rachel was staring at him with a glazed look on her face, her mouth slightly opened. He must be boring the crap out of her. God, she was sexy. He wanted to kiss her, but restrained himself.
"Maybe you should be taking notes so you remember this," Walter suggested. A frown briefly darkened Rachel's face, but she rose and went to her desk, returning with a notepad.
"Could you please write down what you just said?" Rachel requested. Walter was about to tell her no, she had to write it down, that was how it was supposed to work. But why was that how it was supposed to work? It didn't have to. Anyway, if he wrote it down, it would save time. But would she be able to read his sloppy handwriting?
"How about if I type it? My handwriting is messy."
Her face brightened. "Sure!" She stood and walked to her closet, lugging back a huge green typewriter with a chord dangling from it. Compared to his mother's little non-electric Underwood that he'd been allowed to bring to college, her typewriter was twice as large. Seeing that it seemed heavy to her, he took it from her halfway to the desk. It was easily three times as heavy as the Underwood. He set it on the desk, noticing its centered IBM logo, and plugged it in while she rummaged in her desk for typing paper.
"This paper is strange," he commented.
"I've got to get some of this," he said, thinking of how many times Sunday night he'd had to choose between starting a page over or slathering on Wite-Out. Hell, once he had even hit the wrong letter to start a word and then sat there until he figured out a word starting with "c" that he could use there. "Where did you buy it?"
"I don't know. My father gave it to me."
Walter sat and typed what he'd said so far, then tried to lecture and type at the same time. "Haydn's expositions are often monothematic."
"They only have one theme. Mozart's expositions have two themes, with the first one being masculine in character and the second one feminine. Beethoven's themes are generally shorter, more like motivic cells than melodies. That actually makes them easier to do interesting things with in the development section." When he had finished typing that, he demonstrated by replaying the taped examples and pointing out how they fit what he'd said. "But these are just generalizations. Haydn sometimes has two themes, and Beethoven's exposition themes are sometimes longer and more melodic. There are also differences between them in how they use harmony, but Professor Hatch hasn't really talked about that much, so I don't think you have to know that for the midterm."
And with that, the hour was finished and he was soon walking downstairs, ten dollars richer.
At Wednesday's Lit.Hum. class, papers were returned. Walter flipped to the last page to see his grade and was stunned by the B- circled there. Handwritten next to it was, "The fluency of your writing does not quite conceal the haphazard quality of your structure. Your paragraphs change subject in midstream. The whole paper gives the effect of having been dashed off in a couple of hours. Your intelligence deserves better!"
Well, it had been dashed off "in a couple of hours," so that was a fair cop, but Walter had thought the relatedness of everything touched on made it all one big topic. Apparently not. Maybe he should have narrowed the paper's focus after all.
Roman AkLeff says of Music and Sex, his third attempt at a novel: "Lots of the events depicted in this book happened, to varying degrees. Some should have happened but didn't until now. Though it's mostly set in the 20th century, Music and Sex aspires to be a Bildungsroman for 21st century sensibilities, in that the main character doesn't finish coming of age until he is several decades into adulthood."