Katie Roiphe wrote an excellent article – “The Naked and the Conflicted” – in the New York Times that tracks the treatment of sex by male novelists from writers like Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, and John Updike through to contemporary writers like Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, and Benjamin Kunkel. The upshot is that newer male novelists do not include the exuberant, even extreme, sex that got previous male novelists in trouble, but at least made them interesting. The younger writers’ sex scenes involve a lot more cuddling if they have any sex scenes at all. It’s a good article, I recommend that you read it.

What works

I really like that an article about novels and plots – not something that easily lends itself to information graphics – includes not one, but two different visualizations. I also happen to like that they are magenta. It’s a story about sex – magenta is a good way to scream for attention.

What needs work

I don’t know about you, but these are probably only good as jokes. And joking with information graphics is just fine by me. I encourage it.

If one were to try to interpret these as graphics, though, I have a few recommendations. First, I would have ordered the authors in the same way on both visualizations. Right now they are mirror images and it makes it harder to follow the patterns. I think the graphic could have been funnier and more helpful if there had been an axis labeled with what constitutes sex, more sex, outrageous behavior. If you read the article, some of this becomes clear, but the graphic doesn’t stand on its own without the article. And the snake-y graphic just doesn’t do much at all. There is no reason for all the snakiness – just makes it hard to read which obscures the point. It might have even been funnier if each of the adjectives had been in its own bubble where the size of the bubble increased the more authors that could be described with that adjective.

References

Roiphe, Katie. (December 2009) The Naked and the Conflicted in The New York Times Sunday Book Review with graphics by Paula Scher.