Peter Benchley's "Jaws," the Novel, as Toothsome Holiday Reading

One thing good about the holidays, and about being away from home and routine, is Weird Reading. I have a first edition hardback of Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” (1973) on my bookshelf in Colorado, and picked it up to pass the time while watching it not snow again. It’s actually pretty good. “Toothsome” I think is the word. I read it years ago when it came out, but I didn’t remember that in the novel, the couple actually has Sex On the Beach before she gets chomped while swimming afterward. The sentence that describes it is almost an entry for that Bad Literary Sex Award, the one for which John Updike was a perennial favorite: “They fumbled with each other’s clothing, twined limbs around limbs, and thrashed with urgent ardor on the cold sand” (10). Note the obvious parallels to the woman’s death in the maw of the Great White and her thrashing with weekend hookup stranger (this is revealed in subsequent paragraphs). The ending is lifted straight out of Melville’s Moby Dick, but it’s grisly fun.

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