The regular links, opinions and personal updates post
Links of Interest
*AnimeJune’s B- review of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander at Gossamer Obsessions is the funniest and truest thing I have read online in weeks. Close your eyes if you are a Jamie fan, because this is how she sums up the book:
Jamie Fraser is Awesome and Everyone Wants to Have Sex with Him. For 800 pages.
*Casablanca author Abigail Reynolds is wondering Are Regency romances Paranormal by Definition?
*At Novel Readings, Rohan Maitzen links to and discusses three posts about the state of literary blogging, one of which is pretty pessimistic:
Literary blogs are (unwittingly, I hope) abetting the capitalist imperative to get out “product” as quickly as possible. New books appear, are duly noted, presumably consumed, and then we’re on to the next one. ,,, Once the book has passed its “sell by” date, nothing else is heard of it and every book is considered in isolation, as a piece of literary news competing for its 15 seconds.
*I have a special fondness for long time romance readers’ reminiscences about the genre, so I loved the lengthy, detailed post by Ann Marble at All About Romance on the demise of Silhouette:
As I learned from a talk at an RWA Conference, Nora Roberts submitted her first romance to Harlequin in the late 1970s but was rejected because “they already had their American writer.” Whoops. Big mistake, Harlequin. Luckily for Nora, Silhouette was established shortly after that, and the rest is history. American history, that is. Americans were not only hungry for romance, they were hungry for American romances.
*Over at Promantica, Magadalen relates how she was rude to a well known author at the New Jersey RWA and reframes her experience in terms of her fraught personal history with women and the difficulty of writing in a genre that demands sisterhood.
*I don’t actually read The Awl — the posts are meh — but I subscribe to it in my Google reader because post titles like “Dog Bites Man in Insufficiently Prurient Way”, “Does Stabbing Someone 50 Times Convey Intent to Murder?” and “My Quiet, Mostly Disgusting Adventures with Natural Deodorant” are so hilarious. The Awl has just set up a new sister site, The Hairpin, by and for women. So far, it’s not very funny or interesting or even womeny. But we’ll see.
The New York Times published an interesting piece on The Awl recently:
The very idea of a little digital boutique flies in the face of all manner of conventional wisdom, chief of which is that scale is all that matters in an era of commoditized advertising sales. The Awl is attempting to tunnel under those efforts by building a low-cost site that delivers a certain kind of content for a certain kind of audience. And the owners don’t have to get rich — The Awl has no investors — they just have to eat.
The Awl confronts the tyranny of small numbers in an age when Web behemoths, like Gawker Media and The Huffington Post, get most of the attention. A lot of ad agencies don’t want to deal with any sites under a million unique visitors, and many brands are not necessarily interested in cutting deals with boutique Web sites.
*Sandy at The Good the Bad The Unread wrote a post earlier this month on bad reviews, saying basically they are ok as long as the reviewer is not mean or snarky, and is not too critical. Lynne Connelly, whose books I have never read but whose Ponderings posts at TGTBTU I usually enjoy, wrote this:
I’ve seen quite a few sites springing up recently which seem to exist just for snark, to try to make a name for the site owner rather than the author.
Really? I would love to know which sites these are, because I subscribe to pretty much every romance blog in the known universe, and the ones I see springing up are filled with glowing reviews, fawning author “interviews”, annoying flash ads, and loads of contests, interspersed with the occasional “sponsored post” for some obscure non-book product.
*I blogged two weeks ago about a couple of critical pieces by second wave feminists of today’s young feminists. Here’s a response from Beauty Schooled, a blog I enjoy quite a bit:
Because Pollitt also doesn’t understand why we spend so much time getting worked up about Levi’s Curve ID jeans ads and snack foods that want us to be thinner: Feminism is about getting that stuff out of your head. But if that’s the case, feminism has been a big, fat failure for around 90 percent of women. That stuff is in our heads, and it’s in our little sisters’ heads and our daughters’ heads at a frighteningly young age. You can’t keep on ignoring the beauty myth, hoping it will go away. Because it didn’t.
She argues that we object to Big Beauty and yet remain in its thrall, one explanation of why women today reserve the right to blowout our hair and demand equal pay. But I think what we’re trying to do is much more nuanced and more difficult than that. We’re figuring out how to engage with beauty on our terms, not because it continues to hypnotize us, but because again, it didn’t go anywhere when feminists tried the wholesale rejection approach. So we have to negotiate it, to pick our battles more carefully, and to allow that “choice” does mean women can have different interpretations of what works for them here, and still work together on other issues.
Three Sources of Ire:
1. A while back, I read an article on romance in a peer reviewed feminist journal that bothered me so much, I blogged about all the problems with it. I then emailed the editor with a list of my concerns (compiled and framed with the help of Laura Vivanco of Teach Me Tonight). I felt that the author had misrepresented the work of several scholars, among other problems, and that the journal might want to know this, so that it could take steps to correct the record. I know several people are interested in the outcome, so here it is: the editor replied to my email, essentially rejecting 100% of my complaints.
I may write something up for the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, so that the problems with the essay that I outlined in the blog post can get a more permanent and scholarly home.
2. This cover, which was displayed prominently at the bioethics conference I attended last weekend:
Really, Georgetown? Really?
Maybe that’s why I enjoyed rereading [Dracula] so much: it reminded me that this is how vampires and vampire stories are meant to be – terrifying, horrifying, violent. This beast is disgusting, amoral and predatory. He hunts, he feeds, he kills. That’s it.
Dracula is not cool, sexy or sensitive. He’ll never be a teenage girl’s ideal sweetheart. He’s not funny or kooky or “just different”. He’s bad to the bone, and Dracula is a visceral, draining and overwhelming horror novel … which is the way it should be.
Maybe some of us find it more terrifying — and interesting — to explore what it means for a fictional protagonist to engage with a morally ambiguous vampire, or to be attracted — not compelled, but willingly attracted — to one. Maybe a monster who is not clearly Other, but who is is thisclose to being one of us is actually scarier. Maybe some of us like the way the new vampires force us to ask the question: who is the monster here?
The way it “should be” is this: writers tell the stories they want to tell about vampires, and readers choose stories they want to read.
I nuked my Facebook account, maybe temporarily, but it feels so good it may be permanent. I loved blogging the minute I started doing it — and still do — and, while my relationship with Twitter was more fraught, I have settled into a routine that feels comfortable (esp love my early mornings chats with the Europe and Aussie/NZ folks!). FB never felt right to me. I hated the ads, and frequent requests for things, the need for constant vigilance about privacy settings, my lack of trust in Facebook’s protection of my privacy (click this link for the latest episode — an app developer has sold users’ personal info), and the mixing of so many different people from different aspects of my life, past and present. I hated the constant cheeriness, and the “friends” who feel the need to post flattering pictures of themselves from every possible angle (I was “friends” with some people who had over 100 profile pictures. Is that really necessary?). I didn’t like reading tweets that I had already read on twitter. It was awkward to reconnect with folks I hadn’t communicated with in 20 years, only to never have another thing to say to them after the first flurry of emails. I think it must be generational, because when I walk through the student union on campus, every laptop is open to Facebook. How do you manage it?
Amazingly, this week does not look like hell, so I may be able to blog some. I hope to write a post on disgust and sex, and a response to a post at another blog on romance readers’ susceptibility to suggestion.