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text 2018-02-27 18:48
The grand project, or, a method to my madness
Half Heaven, Half Heartache: Discovering the Transformative Potential in Women's Popular Fiction - Linda Hilton

As intrigued as I am by the Kill Your Darlings game, I decided last night that I have to discipline myself and Just Say No.  There's just not enough room in my life for it right now.  I'll have to play along vicariously through everyone else.

 

As I wrote in a previous posts here and here about Pamela Regis's A Natural History of the Romance Novel, I was giving serious consideration to picking up my 2000 undergrad honors thesis and expanding it the way I had planned to then.  That "serious consideration" took a step in an even more serious direction yesterday, when I began assembling some of my old notes and subsequent text expansions.  I've already purchased a couple more reference books, and started re-reading some of the material already on hand.

 

My personal life has also presented some new challenges.  My financial situation is a tad  more precarious than it has been, and I am at an age where that is not easily remedied. I am not destitute, at least not yet; nor am I without resources.  My last big art show is coming up in early April, and much of my energy until then will be directed toward that.  Then comes the long, hot summer, when supplemental income is less reliable and expenses can mount significantly.

 

Another of those resources is this project, if I can gather my discipline and determination and Just. Do. It.  I should have been doing it for the past several years, but there's no changing that.

 

The romance genre has expanded since 2000, and I know I have a great deal of work ahead of me.  I guess I'd better get to work.

 

 

 

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text 2018-02-21 20:46
Modeling agencies
A Natural History of the Romance Novel - Pamela Regis

I could do this as a "currently reading" title with periodic updates, but too much is going on, so I'm just going to leave a few notes here and there.  You can follow, or not, as you choose.

 

 

Regis bases her analysis of the content of romance novels on the literary theories of mid-20th century critic Northrop Frye.  She seems, therefore, to be trying to fit the popular fiction form of the romance novel into the academic model of "literature," as though the two were almost entirely distinct.  Any prose narrative that has already been accepted as "literature" by the credentialed academic community -- such as Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre -- has been granted respect.  Regis seems to be attempting to squeeze romance novels into the same mold while at the same time insisting they are so different from literature that they cannot be considered literature, but if they can be seen to share some characteristics, then they might be worthy of some respect.

 

Yes, it's contorted logic.  But Regis never comes out and admits romance novels -- as they are written, published, read, and enjoyed today -- are essentially no different in content or form from "literature."  That would be academic sacrilege.  A kind of "separate, but sort of equal" compromise that would allow her to sell her book without losing her academic standing.

 

Jane Austen didn't write "literature."  Neither did Charles Dickens.  Neither did Wilkie Collins or Victor Hugo.  Maybe it's time to look at more than a few samples from "literature," samples which already have the stamp of "romance novel," and look at more than a few samples of real romance novels from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and compare them to a more neutral standard, and perhaps a more universal standard.  Then see how both of them stand up.

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text 2018-02-21 00:24
Planning to read -- How do you feel?
A Natural History of the Romance Novel - Pamela Regis

When I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis about romance novels in 2000, this book was still three years in the future. Though I had an academic publisher interested in a book-length version of Half Heaven, Half Heartache, I never followed up on it and ultimately saw the Regis book as what mine would/might have been.  So my "book" sat on the shelf.

 

A few years ago, however, an odd set of circumstances brought my attention back to A Natural History, and so I bought a copy.  The opening pages took me aback.

 

Rather than "a natural history," the Regis book opened like just another post-modern analysis of a varied genre that the author didn't really know, understand, or care about.The University of Pennsylvania imprint, of course, hinted that the tone would be academic rather than popular, in rather stark contrast to UPenn's 1994 anthology of essays by actual romance novelists, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.

 

Romance novels don't write themselves; they are written by people -- usually women -- who have read other romance novels and other romantic novels and other novels written by other people.  The Happy Ever After (HEA) ending continues to be disparaged even as it's deemed absolutely essential to the genre, and even while readers and writers proclaim novels without HEA are still romances.

 

It's not enough to subject a few selected novels to a Procrustean post-modern literary analysis and declare that to be the natural history of an entire genre.

 

I'm not sure how many romance novels I've read.  More than a few hundred certainly.  I've written (through to the HEA) a dozen or so; the unfinished starts are uncountable.  There are great romance novels and there are horrible ones.  Some are well-written, some are not.  They are short, they are long.  They are contemporary, they are historical, they are futuristic.  They are sweet, they are sexy, they are erotic.

 

Romance novels, however, still don't get respect.  Pamela Regis's book was supposed to give the genre the respect it deserved.  As far as I can see, it fails rather miserably.

 

I didn't want that to be the case.  I wanted A Natural History of the Romance Novel to succeed.  I wanted to see my favorite books and authors given pride of place in a serious, detailed analysis of the good points and bad points.  That's not what this book is.

 

So, it all comes back to my little thesis.  I guess I have some major reading to do.

 

 

 

 

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text 2018-01-02 22:11
Was this really the beginning? No!
The Flame and the Flower - Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Kathleen E. Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower began the flood of paperback historical romances written by and for women readers in 1972, but it wasn't the first historical romance by any means.

 

We can go back to the swashbucklers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, by Dumas and Hugo and Sabatini, as well as the historical adventures of the mid-20th century by Yerby and Shellabarger and others.  These were the books I and my fellow historical romance writers of the 1980s had grown up reading.  We watched the movies of Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power, Cornel Wilde and Burt Lancaster.  We weren't into the polite comedies of manners from Georgette Heyer the way we were into the swords and daggers of Edison Marshall.

 

As I detailed in my analysis of Leslie Turner White's Lord Johnnie, there was a subtle feminism in many of these pre-Woodiwiss novels.  Not in all of them, of course, but it's important to remember that women read these books, too, and they watched the movies that were made from them in the 1930s, 1940s, and on.  The books, and the authors, had to keep those women in mind.

 

It was on that foundation that Kathleen Woodiwiss built, to be followed by Rosemary Rogers, Laurie McBain, Jude Deveraux, Rebecca Brandewyne, Julie Garwood, Candace Camp, LaVyrle Spencer, Jo Beverley, Julia Quinn, and so many more.

 

In the spring of 2000, I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis at Arizona State University West on the feminist potential in romance novels.  Eventually I published a digital edition on Amazon, not expecting very much but just to have it easily available.

 

 

 

The changes that have occurred in the romance fiction world since 2000 really warrant another examination of the causes and effects, the actions and reactions.  I stated at the beginning of Half Heaven, Half Heartache that I wasn't going to look at gay and lesbian romances because my focus was on the straight romance and how it affected as well as mirrored real life straight romance.  Seventeen years later, however, there is now a valid and valuable interaction.  The same is true of romances featuring people of color, interracial romances, and all the other "new" forms of romantic fiction, both historical and contemporary, paranormal and fantasy.

 

My collection of romance novels has grown since 2000, and there has been more non-fiction about romance fiction written and published.  Imagine what I could do with that.

 

Watch this space.

 

 

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review 2017-10-27 13:36
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

My last Booklikes Halloween Bingo read. I'm done with all the themes as of early this morning.

 

Sometimes I forget how Jane Austen could look at something, poke gentle fun at it and still respect it. Yes a lot of genre fiction (not called it then but now this is the tar it's painted with) is frivolous. There are some arguments that it can cause people to have an unrealistic view of the world and this is what Austen tackles here.  She shows that it might colour how people think but it also helps them frame things and also people learn that these things are not true from rational thinking. And that diverting tales that include your gender beats boring histories without. There are also minor pokes at what is considered proper knowledge for women, fashion victims and other apparently eternal tropes. There are some excellent feminist moments in it, and careful looks at what is expected versus what someone wants from life.

 

Catherine Morland lives in the country in Wiltshire when she gets a chance to change her scene and go to Bath with neighbours (Mr and Mrs Allen) there she meets with people her own age and forms friendships. One is Eleanor Tilney and her brother Henry. Catherine and Henry find themselves attracted to each other but when Catherine visits the Gothic Northanger Abbey her imagination provides a lot of extras. However the truth may be less interesting and more upsetting.

 

While some of it flowed a bit differently from modern fiction, it was full of moments where I could imagine Austen reading to family or friends and them getting a kick of the reflection of events that had happened.

 

I found it thoroughly enjoyable and would like to thank Tannat and Themis Athena for their suggestions of this one. I would recommend.

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