slate.com – Laura Bennett
Purity is a superb novel, with fascinating characters and a deeply satisfying plot. Also, because it is a novel authored by Jonathan Franzen, it is full of very strange sex. In fact, one of Purity’s greatest gifts to the culture is the bounty of new sex scenes it contributes to the already-jam-packed Franzen canon—a string of pleasureless couplings and cumbersome romps defined by that principal trait of all Franzen sex scenes, which is: improbability. Real life sex scenes do not happen this way. Men do not often pause in the heat of passion to say “the person I honestly am is a person who wants his tongue in you”; women do not often become impregnated with sperm from anal hate-sex with their ex-husbands. And yet—these scenes are crazily riveting, psychosexual nightmarescapes full of descriptions like “getting his fingers in her spirit” and “anally violated shriek”. So here is a highly subjective ranking of all the sex scenes in Purity’s 550-plus pages, arranged from most plausible (10) to least plausible (1). Spoilers for Purity below, of course.