For Oyster's 20th Anniversary Issue, 'EXPOSED' we asked four of our favourite writers (Tavi, JAMetatone, Max Blagg and Nicolas Jaar) to tell us private stories about their favourite body parts. Here is Max Blagg on necks.
Young boys are so easily gob-smacked by female breasts and the dark secret between the thighs; it's only later when pray God they are imbued with a modicum of sense and taste that they might pause to admire more subtle ladyparts — learn to worship the Grecian curve of the shoulders, the Ionic, unironic column of the neck, an architectural instrument made of flesh. Here, with three meditations on that curve, a lavish note on the clavicles.
1. The girl I thought I was in love with at 15 consented to let me walk her home to within 50 yards of her parents' semi-detached, part of a cluster of council houses on a street facing the railroad. Under the concrete arches of the bridge that curved over the tracks, we tussled in the dark for a few exciting minutes as I tried to gain access to her small, delightful breasts. Finally she unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it down over her shoulders, still covering her bra and all the magic it contained. Her upper arms were white as bone; they glowed in the shadows. Cars and lorries roared over our heads like jets as she tried to school me in the art of kissing and nothing more than that, because she also knew the price of getting pregnant — our futures cancelled, education terminated, the gates would slam shut for both of us, trapped for life in this little town. I vaguely understood that too, but her sweet scent sang to me, called me like a siren, like a beautiful ship out on the wave, never quite arriving. She eventually permitted me a brief touch of her naked skin, even allowed me to put my lips to the shoulder itself, 30 seconds of utter heaven. The briefest grazing touch of bare skin, smooth and warm but outside the true erotic zone summoned by the curve of the breast. It was past her 10pm curfew and the angel looked homeward. I strolled back to my own neighbourhood, taste buds flooding my mouth with saliva as I savoured that raspberry fragrance, recalling the geometry of her shoulder in the gloom, a delicate line against the bridge's harsh concrete pilings. She left me at the edge of a mystery slowly unravelling — the endless path to the palace of sensual wisdom and revelation, a building that still ignites my curiosity each time I wander through its thousand rooms — her distant curves still framing and inflaming my imagination, my boiling adolescent cravings merging into one shimmering image seared onto the medulla oblongata, where it quivers still like a frog on a spear.
2. Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient, imperious, her angular shoulders a perfect line of beauty, clavicles like bottomless pools where koi swim in lazy circles and the heron waits patiently at the edge until his daily meal appears and is speared and carried off. In this goddess guise she presents herself to the future Patient played by Ralph Fiennes, immaculate in midnight-blue tux and military haircut. They are in a ballroom, dancers moving in the background; she is leaning against a Doric column. I didn't rent the movie, relying instead on faulty internal memory maps to conjure that Englishwoman's breathtaking elegance and fine manners that barely conceal the appetite for abandon that lies beneath, one layer of silk away. The skin of her neck and shoulders is bathed in golden light, the clavicles deep as a china cup, connecting us to Celtic rituals buried deep in our subconscious — drinking alcohol from bone cups, rams' horns and ruby-studded chalices, praying to a dozen pagan gods.
3. In another galaxy Liz Taylor is half submerged in a glistening pool but her shoulders are freely exposed, revealing their erotic depth only to those who grasp the beauty of the curve, the promise of the sex beyond it, curving like that road in the hills above Positano where you are driving in a hurry to your lover's house before her husband returns from Rome, careful not to let the curve run out lest a precipice intervene and transform the Maserati into a flaming wreck.
Elizabeth Taylor, in her violet-eyed prime, was the spokesmodel for White Shoulders perfume, a trail of dead husbands and movie-star lovers in her wake. Young mothers splashed it on to invoke a fragment of her glamour, grounded as they were by two or three kids, freedom and beauty disappearing into suburban barbecues around above-ground pools. Their adolescent sons, burning suns, smelled this rank cologne in their nostrils as their hormones exploded in summer bedrooms, confusing the smell of Liz's shoulders with their own mothers' odours, mummy odours indeed, scratch and sniff, teenage lust raging through those long summer nights, smell of chlorine and bleach mingling as the curve drove them 'round the bend.