Smart Bitches on the Powell’s Interblag!

Check it out, motherfuckers: I talk at length about the romance ghetto, why it’s a ghetto, how I got there and why I love it, and Sarah and I tackle disdain for romance novels and give recommendations. (Side note: that first sentence for the Ghetto article? Should read “Welcome to the romance ghetto.” Gahhhhhhhhhh I hate it when I omit words that way and don’t catch it.)

Anyway, we are on the Powell’s Book Blog, eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

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  1. 1
    earthgirl says:

    I was at a picnic with work people today, and said something about how I’d been reading a book that I’d really been looking forward to (you all’s, of course). Trying to figure out a way to phrase it without using “man titty”, I said, “A book of literary criticism about romance.” “YOU READ ROMANCE?” Cue staring and awkward silence.

    A ghetto it is.

  2. 2
    Kaetrin says:

    I LOVED Something Wonderful!

    I think my favourite part was when our hero was trying to explain [*whispering*] sex to Alexandra and got a bit tongue-tied – to which she responded “oh, you don’t know either!”

    Thank you for reminding me of this fabulous book.

  3. 3
    Trix says:

    About the “not chick porn” thing…

    I keep hearing this about romance stories, and honestly, I don’t know why people say that. To me, it often is porn – it evokes a sensual and/or emotional response. Ok, the good stuff also has wonderful storytelling and prose and character-building, but so can the good stuff in porn.

    So, tell me, why is it not chick porn? (Leaving aside the demeaning use of “chick” in this context.) What’s the distinction that people are highlighting here?

    /has45 – no, I think it’s only been about half that.

  4. 4
    LS says:

    Might I suggest you read (or reread) Candy and Sarah’s essays, Trix?  Then perhaps you’ll get the answer you’re looking for.

  5. 5
    Barb Ferrer says:

    porn: porn is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer.

    It’s not chick porn because romance encapsulates so much more than simple sexual excitement.  That it can do that, I don’t think anyone around here has ever denied, however, it’s not its sole reason for being.  It’s as, Candy said in one of her essays:

    But fiction, ultimately, is about humans: it’s about how humans interact with other humans, and how humans interact with their cultures and institutions. The various genres narrow the focus and give us specific contexts to explore those interactions, but the heart of fiction is still humanity, in all its propensity to put the secret of life in its pants and forgetting it’s there and sitting down. Finding love and creating family is fundamental to the human experience. It’s why it looms so large in the fictional landscape. Why, exactly, are we so disdainful and dismissive of fiction that focuses on exactly these pursuits?

    To call romance chick porn, is IMHO, to diminish it.  It commands an important place in the fiction landscape—those who would use a term such as “porn” are using it in order to denigrate the genre and I think those who would shrug it off and say, “Well, it sort of is” are doing the genre a disservice by allowing that particular disambiguation to persist.

  6. 6
    JoanneL says:

    To my mind that is one of the biggest hurdles now facing the community of romance writers and readers. Books being categorized as romance when, indeed, they are not.

    Romance Books can contain erotic scenes and/or erotica and/or whips and/or chains and/or handcuffs and/or menages and/or blindfolds and/or a thousand other things romance authors can imagine and write.

    What they CAN NOT DO WITHOUT is the romance. That connection between two people (or more, depending on your writing/reading preference) who come together emotionally by the end of the story.

    That is what differentiates romance books from porn. Porn is just a manual of how-to and watch-this. The romance book story is about the protagonists, not just their sexual acts and/or acting out,  but their journey to a HEA or (if the author insists!) a HFN.

    And to the first poster, my answer to ‘you read romance?’ is Yes. I’m free to read what I want when I want where I want.  I don’t try to explain my preference and I certainly won’t argue with someone who would ask such a question.

    Nice article Candy, well done!

  7. 7
    Victoria Dahl says:

    What a super duper article. I loved it. (It is the weekend, and no one is paying me to work word skillz, yo.)

  8. 8
    Suze says:

    Those were both AWESOME essays!  Go, Candy!

    To me, it often is porn – it evokes a sensual and/or emotional response. Ok, the good stuff also has wonderful storytelling and prose and character-building, but so can the good stuff in porn.

    There’s good stuff in porn?  All the porn I’ve seen lacks storytelling entirely, beyond limp (heh) contrivances to throw the sexxors together.  “Why, hello, Pizza Delivery Boy.  Bring that big salami on in.  Oops, I seem to be a little short on cash…”

    Can you recommend some good stuff?

  9. 9
    Kate says:

    Rock on, Smart Bitches! Two of my favorite websites collide…wonderful articles.

  10. 10
    Barb Ferrer says:

    “Why, hello, Pizza Delivery Boy.  Bring that big salami on in.  Oops, I seem to be a little short on cash…”

    That puts me in mind of one of the porn movies we saw in college—classic moment, Alien Girl Who is Blonde and Unnaturally Busty is lookin’ for some earth lovin’.  She knocks at some random door—Geek Boy opens it, she asks, “Are you a man?” and he stutters in reply “I-I’m an accountant.”

    Made no never mind to her—she did him anyway and of course he turned out to be Unnaturally Well Hung.

    For years, the exchange of “Are you a man? I’m an accountant,” would send us into shrieking gales of laughter.

    Why that stays with me so many years later is a mystery.

  11. 11
    Darlynne says:

    I left a comment last night on the Powell’s blog and it’s not there today. “Rock on,” is all I wanted to say. That was a great article, as usual.

  12. 12
    Candy says:

    @Trix: I don’t think of it as porn because pornography, to my mind, is sexual titillation and nothing else. When I think porn, I think stroke books and magazines, where the only use and the only purpose is to get somebody off. Something can have pornographic elements without being pornographic as a whole—nude art photography, for example, and certainly romance novels. A lot of the older porn movies (like Missy Beethoven) or even newer movies like Shortbus are sexually explicit and porny, but they don’t jive with my internal definition of what “pornographic” means.

    All that said, I don’t use porn in pejorative terms—I have issues with a lot of mainstream porn and the way women are used/depicted, but those are issues that are separate from the sexual explicitness.

    In any case, I don’t think using the term “porn” for romance novels is especially accurate, but that’s only based on my personal definition of porn—and I think that’s what trips people up, because different people have different definitions.

  13. 13
    SonomaLass says:

    I think Candy makes a good point.  Whether you find “porn” (or our favorite “emotional porn”) offensive depends on what you associate with “porn.”  My sense is that most people who apply such a label to romance are being deliberately pejorative—porn is not real literature, is something of which to be ashamed, yadda yadda.  But yes, people can enjoy sexually explicit material and find it gratifying, and certainly there is some romance that has that appeal to some readers, even more so if you expand the definition to include emotionally explicit/gratifying.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who is left cold by a lot of “adult” material along the lines of the pizza delivery boy with the salami, but who can be mightily aroused by explicit scenes in romance that have powerful emotional set-up and consequences.  (TMI, and I’m sorry, but there it is.)

  14. 14
    Carleen says:

    So many book ghettos, so little time!

  15. 15
    Esri Rose says:

    Cogent and well-observed.

    P.S. I just call it the “pink ghetto.”

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