This morning I opened my New York Times (after digging around in the snow for ten minutes, in my bathrobe, in a blizzard) to find an annoying essay by Katie Roiphe about "Great Male Writers" and their sex scenes. Her thesis: the old guys were exuberant and sexy, but the news guys are wimpy and ambivalent about sex, presumably because they're all feminist and sensitive and whatever.
What's annoying about it is that she chose to write about only those writers who fit her thesis. The new guys in the essay are Chabon, Wallace, Eggers, Franzen, and someone named Benjamin Kunkel, whom, I'm embarrassed to admit, I've never even heard of. But there are many writers who are just as prominent, just as well-reviewed, who don't fit her thesis at all. Junot Diaz comes to mind, and George Saunders, Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Powers, Denis Johnson. Chabon, Franzen, et al, are doing a particular self-conscious thing, yeah. But they're not really representative of "Our Great Male Writers" -- just a subset. Four guys whose subject, unlike the guys in the previous generation, isn't really sex at all.
The NYTimes is still a great paper, even after Judith Miller and Jayson Blair and all that, but they're obsessed with noting "cultural trends." Hand-picking your examples to make a vague semi-truth is just bad journalism.
However, the most intriguing thing about the essay is this: on my paper version of the article, the main graphic has a little picture of Dave Eggers under the wimpiest sex: "Cuddling." The internet version has Kunkel. Did they just not have room for both, so they picked one for the paper, one for the digital? Or did Eggers call up in a rage and demand his picture be taken off? I dearly hope it was the latter.