Links! For Wednesdays!

Do you giggle at the fact that Wednesday is called “Hump Day?” Like it’s an invitation to get down, get funky, get it on till a few hours prior to sunrise? Get humpin! And, if your house is alongside one of those “Speed Hump” signs in my neighborhood, you know how fast (or slow) you have to go, too. Win for all!

Alas, if you’re not humpin’, you can have some links to tide you over until humperating returns.

From Gemma & Lisa, 15th Century Peasant Romance Comics from Hark! A Vagrant. I’m particularly partial to the first one. Pass the Scope, please.

From Kimberly Van Meter, the the HuffPo collection of supremely creepy children’s books. I confess that I very nearly ordered The Long Journey of Mister Poop (bilingual edition!) for Hubby, but restrained myself. Barely.

From Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kevin Roose from TheGloss was challenged to read a few romance novels and arrived at some conclusions as to how romance novels might suggest ways to make him hotter to the opposite sex:

Nothing feels as good as hot looks.
The romance novel, like the porn movie, is composed of Platonic physical ideals. Every guy is tall, dark, and well-hung, every bra is a lacy DD, and all sexual chemistry is immediate and overwhelming. This manic physical atmosphere overrides all other plot elements – fairly frequently, the authors will interrupt a bit of serious dialogue to tell us that “her nipples went hard” or “he felt his knob throbbing in his pants.”

In romance novels, this sexual tension is what allows for the characters’ emotional growth – Grace McKenna’s rack, not her equipoise, is what makes Julian Salvatore open up. And in the books’ final chapters, when the couples live happily ever after, it’s not because they’ve gone on Lexapro or had a therapist sift through their Freudian hangups. It’s because they’ve had some really good sex.

So, after putting down the last romance novel, I decided not to work on my emotional vulnerability after all. Instead, I’m working on my obliques. If I do enough crunches, maybe I’ll be hot enough for a woman to want to melt my cold, cold heart.

On one hand, is it ever going to get old, the whole “judge the whole genre by three random books” thing? On the other hand, yes, sometimes the descriptions of sex are ridiculous and yes, sometimes the metaphors fall down and trip on themselves while they do so, because they’re dancing on the stairs carrying the weight of their own wordcount.

Does it smart to have someone make sweeping pronouncements about the genre based on three books? Yup. Have I drawn the same conclusions about specific romances after reading many, many more? Oh, yes yes yes. (Have I read these particular books? No – but I know Singh’s books, based on the Angels’ Blood series, are fan-freaking-awesome, so my mileage has most definitely varied from Mr. Roose’s.) I do have to say, though, that while the presumption of his suitability is particularly grating – yes, only those with no sense of style, snobbery and literary sense can appreciate thooooooose books, so let’s send some to the plebian lowbrow dude, right? – he gets a begrudging snort from me for looking at both the parts that bugged him and the parts that he liked. 

Mostly, I really want to email Kevin Roose and ask him what his favorite books are, so I can try to recommend a romance he’d really enjoy – and see what he learns from that one.

Finally, Dawn sends over this link – which I totally almost miss in the morass of OMGWTF that is my inbox right now: Nora Roberts’ Vision in White game is out and available for download. The free demo is an hour long, and the full version is $6.99.

Anyone tried it? What’d you think?

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  1. 1
    Heather says:

    The weirdest comment I thought Kevin Roose made in his article was the aside:

    (The recent explosion of the paranormal romance genre, according to my editor, is almost entirely Twilight’s fault.)

    Really?

    Now while I loved the crack cocaine that was Twilight, I can’t see how it could be blamed for all of paranormal. Actually it looks like it just rode the paranormal wave into the YA cove (to kill a metaphor.)

    Makes me wonder, whose fault is it? LKH and Christine Feehan both come to mind, with their series that WILL NOT DIE. Kelley Armstrong? Katie MacAllister? I guess they could be accessories. But for this I hold Stephanie Meyer (relatively) blameless.

  2. 2
    Laurel says:

    I do not get how it is expected for every strip club to have a cheerleader, a Catholic schoolgirl, a dominatrix, and an uptight “business” woman but books with romantic plotlines are critiqued for chiseled abs. Come on.

  3. 3
    Mary Meerkat says:

    I finished Vision in White the other day.  I was pretty excited to hear about this game!!  I had heard mixed reviews so I waited until the price went down to buy it.  I was glad I waited.

    In general the game isn’t bad.  I think it’s better than Hidden Object of Desire.  That game too had its merits but overall it wasn’t a well conceived idea.  Good start, but didn’t get any better and the story wasn’t very romantic.  I was hoping Vision in White would do better.  It is certainly better.  But I find myself still wanting for a better story or better story presentation.

    Vision in White was 20 dolars (I think?) at first and it was definitely not worth the price.  It’s 6.99 price is good and it’s a very good value for that price tag.  This romance theme in casual games seems like a new thing so I think we’re going to see a tiny rennaissance of these games.  I don’t think we’ve hit the apex.  Hidden Object of Desire was poor, Vision in White was better, but still not where it should be.

    There are other romance themed casual games coming out so I hope it only gets better from here.  That Marjorie Liu game, Tiger Eye, should be coming out soon.  If Vision in White is any indication of progress in this new genre, those of us who love romance novels and casual games should be getting royal treatment!

  4. 4
    orangehands says:

    Articles like Roose manage to piss me off more and more each time I read one of them. Here, have a fucking cookie for once again writing the same damn article. I feel like someone wrote up about five templates of “romance novels have cheesy covers and so much sex and though *whispers* I liked this part *endwhispers* they were basically what I was expecting – porn for women!” If I told a scientist I was taking three random samples to explain something with hundreds of thousands of samples, I’d be laughed out of the lab.

    The romance genre definitely has issues, and deserves criticism for, say, issues about race. But I’m tired of people who know nothing about the genre writing their porn-for-women articles that say nothing new and expecting to get praise for noticing a huge fucking market that’s been around for decades.

    But when the good folks at The Gloss asked me to read and review three dime-store romance novels – and see what I could learn about women along the way – I recoiled. (bold mine)

    And for all that is holy – women are not a homogeneous group who only want one thing, so stop treating us like we are. (I understand this seemed to be his assignment, but maybe he could have written something more along the lines of “And guess what I discovered? Women aren’t all the same, just like men. Hooray!” rather than “women want hot men, the end.”)

    Ahem. Very rant-y. You definitely have a healthier attitude, SB Sarah, since my blood pressure is now spiking. It’s not that this is anything new, its that it’s the same damn thing.

    Heather: Yeah, I’m not sure why they think the paranormal sub genre, which has been growing huge in the last two decades or so,  can be pinned with Twilight. Seems like LKH and Buffy and the 90s started the wave, and its just been hitting tsunami levels in the last decade or so.

  5. 5
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I very much wanted to comment on Kevin Roose’s post, but alas, I could not, nor could I see any comments at all. Was this my computer being stupid, or is he truly so terrified of rational argument that he makes it impossible? Of course, my comment would have been, “You are an idiot.” So maybe it was not such a bad idea to disable comments after all!

  6. 6
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    Disregard the above comment; I figured it out. :-)

    spamword: post75. Maybe in another 75 years, I’ll figure out how to post a comment!

  7. 7
    CourtneyLee says:

    I agree with Heather and orangehands about Twilight not being “at fault” for paranormal romance. At least he qualified his statement with “according to my editor”, which makes me think that said editor’s knowledge of paranormal romance consists of his teenage daughter raving about the newest thing to oversaturate pop culture.

    I was particularly pissed off by this:

    I’ve always thought that what appealed to women about romance novels were the rippled abs and passionate embraces. But it occurred to me that this stuff might be the genre’s actual draw – the heartwarming stories of macho, emotionally-walled men being convinced to open up and admit that love is possible. Maybe this is what women really want from their relationships – an emotional obstacle course, a chance to turn “no, never” into “yes, always.” If we want to give women a real thrill, maybe we should tell them how vulnerable they make us feel. Is your channel moist yet?

    He makes a rather astute (relatively; maybe I should say “logical”) observation with what the draw to the genre may be, then destroys any hope of it being taken seriously with a cheap parting shot. WTF? Even when the massage gets through, it’s mocked. There is truly no hope.

    SB Sarah, if you liked Nalini’s angels, I recommend giving her other series a try.

    first87: the “trashy romance” label was irritating the first 87 times I heard it; now I force myself to just roll my eyes.

  8. 8
    Faye says:

    Thanks for the crack-comics. There goes my productivity! On the plus side, I did also find this gem in the archive:

    http://www.harkavagrant.com/nonsense/fannovel.png

    Oh, Darcy!

  9. 9
    BlueBow says:

    I’m glad more romance-themed games are coming out~ I enjoyed Object of Desire even though it was short. Definitely won’t be picking up Vision in White, though… When it comes to Nora Roberts, I just can’t.

    Faye, the comic you linked. <3 <3 I think I’ve seen it before, but it still made my day. x)

  10. 10
    Stacey P. says:

    I would love to try out the Nora Roberts game—but unfortunately, it’s not available for Macs, :(

  11. 11
    Polly says:

    I don’t have a problem with the Roose article. He read three, he told us which three he read, and he told us what he liked and didn’t like. Yeah, he makes some generalizations, but he never claims to have a huge sample size, and he was upfront about which novels he read. He does talk about “romance novels” in general, but he also mentions “the three I read” a few times too. Come on, folks—it’s a magazine column with a humorous tone, and the humor, to his credit, was snarky rather than malicious. 

    I didn’t mind the hook. I also thought his observations were not incorrect. Much of the prose in sex scenes is terrible; it’s absolutely a pet peeve of mine when people in romance novels go around in a state of semi-arousal all the time; and there is a surprising fixation on physical appearance and immediate physical response in a genre that prides itself on its emotional focus (and I’ll admit that his paragraph on men as diy projects made me laugh).

    Is the problem that people don’t agree with his observations, or that people are bothered that the observations are made on the basis of three books? I’ve read lots (LOTS) of romances, and I still don’t think he’s wrong. I’d say it’s a problem with the genre if you can read three fairly random books and pick up some of the issues that much more widely read readers in the genre have a problem with too. Yes, absolutely, there are romances out there that don’t have these problems, but so many of them do. Even romances I like I sometimes like in spite of other problems, not because they don’t have them.

    I don’t care that he made generalizations when he’s so clear about how many, and which novels he read. What I hate is when people read an unspecified number of unspecified novels and then make judgements that still feel wrong.

    That said, the one generalization he made that annoyed me is when he categorized who reads romance novels. And that observation failed because he generalized from stereotypes and no data, however limited—in other words, he fell into the “unspecified” generalizations trap.

  12. 12
    cories says:

    I thought Kevin Roose was hilarious.  I pretty much lost it at “horny Midwestern preteens and women in loveless marriages”.  He did make some good observations that I agree with so it’s not just a pan job.  I haven’t laughed this hard for days!

  13. 13
    Vicki says:

    I’m with Stacy, we need a Mac version. I’d play it for sure.

  14. 14
    SAO says:

    Roose criticizes the romances, but confesses he loved DaVinci Code.
    He says the romances have zippy plots and bad writing. Ditto DaVinci.

    He makes fun of inordinately handsome heros in romances. Not only is the heroine of DaVinci beautiful and a lot younger than the drip of a hero, but she’s descended from Jesus!!!!! I mean, come on, can a few ripped abs compete with that?

    As a genre, Romance has its flaws, but other forms of popular fiction have similar flaws.

  15. 15
    Cakes says:

    I don’t know, I prefer hot sex to psycho-therapy.

  16. 16
    JBHunt says:

    Heather—I blame Buffy for making us fall in love with vampires and werewolves.

  17. 17
    Randi says:

    I’d have to say that Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy started the whole paranormal fade. Although, thinking about it a bit more, I could go back further and site gobs of Sidhe fairy tales as the beginning of the paranormal craze. Or how about Djinn? Angels? I mean, technically god myths could even be classified as paranormals, so…..

    I would certainly argue that Meyer didn’t create it, nor did LKH, or Charlaine Harris, or so on and so forth. I would also certainly argue that Anne Rice had an impact on resurrecting (no pun intended) the vampire mythos, and she BY FAR predates LKH, Harris, Armstrong, Harrison, etc.

    BTW, no one mentions Mercedes Lackey or Tanya Huff’s vampire series. Both are from the early to mid-80’s and also predate Meyer, LKH, Armstrong, Harris, or Harrison.

    PN Elrod’s vampire detective series started in 1990. That’s also very early.

    addition77: yes, I could probably come up with another 77 additional examples of paranormal authors that significantly predate Meyer.

  18. 18
    orangehands says:

    Polly: It’s not that I disagree with everything he is saying (purple prose, bad sex scenes, the perpetual boner of Love, horrible plots), it’s that 1. everyone treats this like it can only be found in romance books, as opposed to every genre has some bad books and some great, and plenty outside of the romance genre have purple prose, bad sex scenes, the perpetual boner of Lust (it’s called Bond, James Bond syndrome), horrible plots, etc; 2. that almost every article written for a newspaper is usually someone who tries three or so samples of a genre they have disgust for (though haven’t touched before, oh no, girl cooties) and decides the stereotypes are right, it really is porn for women (as CourtneyLee said, even when the message gets through, its mocked); 3. that its not informative, or even new criticism. Rather than discuss what cliche covers mean to sales or how it could be a factor in the rise in e-books, or what it means that Black romance writers are usually put in the African-American section of bookstores instead of in the romance section, or what means about the rise of certain kind of heroes over others, or…its sex books for women!

    These articles, whether well-written, funny, or not (and I can’t say I personally found him funny, but that could be the red haze of anger talking) all seem to come from the same place. When someone like SB Sarah or Jane write criticisms of the genre, I read it because I think its important to analysis what you like and be honest about the issues the genre has. When someone like Roose writes it, it comes across as once again a dismissal of a genre written by and for primarily women. My tastes are being dismissed because what? Can’t be sex since everything and it’s annoying neighbor have some kind of sex subplot. So I’m forced to wonder if its because about emotions (oh, yucky) or because an important, if not the most important character, is a heroine. Or maybe its just because its about sex for the heroine.

    (I don’t mean this to sound like I’m against you or anything. I’m just trying to say why I personally, and probably some others, don’t have such an easy time not disliking the article. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with him, and its not even that he’s basing this on three book samples. It’s that its the same damn thing, whether he wrote it better or not, of every other dismissal of a genre he doesn’t know.)

    Randi: I don’t think LKH and Buffy and her ilk were the first (ha!), I just feel like they helped jump start a larger interest in it. Though thanks for the reminder I completely forgot about Anne Rice. And mid-90s was when she first had a book turned into a movie I believe.

  19. 19
    Polly says:

    orangehands: Here’s the thing: I didn’t think he was dismissing the entire genre. I’m guessing I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t think he was mocking the genre or the people who read it (except for the one line about readers, but even that wasn’t something he was holding to as a hard and fast rule, and I certainly would have been happier with the piece without it). It seems like an awful double standard to say that one would accept the same criticism coming from someone else, like SB Sarah or Jane, but not from a newbie—i.e. that it’s the messenger rather than the message that matters. Obviously the issue here is whether or not one reads the piece as wholesome snark or malicious mock, and that’s up to individuals, but I’m on the side of the snark. If he read some romances and didn’t like them, well, he gets to not like them, especially since he didn’t like them for not-stupid reasons.

    Also, why should he talk about the other factors you brought up? He wasn’t writing a review of the state of romance today—frankly, I doubt he cares about the state of the genre today, and I don’t really see why he should. For that matter, I don’t care about the state of the horror genre today, or any number of other genres. His assignment was to read three romances, three that someone else chose for him, and write about them. To read three, and see what message he, as a guy, could take from them. That’s pretty lowest common denominator as analytic lenses go, but it’s not a wrong lens.  If he’s never read in the genre before, why should he start with the bigger questions of change in the genre over time, or cliche covers and sales, etc?

    There are plenty of wrong-headed, smug, and snotty critiques of romance as a genre for plenty of wrong-headed, smug, and snotty reasons, and as a fairly dedicated romance reader, I wish they’d all just turn in their keyboards, or hold their tongues, and find their “I’m better than you” jollies elsewhere. I just didn’t think this was one of them.

  20. 20
    orangehands says:

    Polly: I’m not sure which one of us is in the minority, actually. I know I’m looking at this article as part of a larger whole and not just as a single article, so that is on me. I know its an assignment rather than something he chose to write about, which can make a big difference in how a writer tackles a subject. And I’m not arguing he doesn’t have a right to complain about romance or poppy seeds or how you do the hula; that’s between him and his editor. It just reads – to me, you obviously got something different, and neither of us are necessarily wrong – as the same old same.

    Its not that he doesn’t have as much right to write about the criticism as SB Sarah, its that like any analysis or debate I get more from someone who knows what they are talking about than from someone entering the discussion having read the Wikipedia post about it. He (IMO) writes it as a dismissal because he had a tiny taste and it mostly matched his ideas, whereas when, to keep using my example, SB Sarah writes it I feel like she’s saying “wow this book sucked monkey balls, too bad the author doesn’t know how to write like [name of author she likes].” It seems like he’s saying this genre sucks and she’s saying this individual book sucks. I’m not saying someone has to like something to criticize it. I dislike the Twilight series and have had talks about it. But I’ve read all four books and seen the movies and read numerous posts about it and I’m not summing up my argument with “all YA sucks and all girls who read it want to be doormats” because frankly, I find that to be lazy criticism.

    I think the main difference between our points is that I did read it a dismissal of the genre, the same one the snobs and smut-haters and whoever make, and you didn’t.

    I personally don’t care for westerns. I’ve read a few, and they just don’t do anything for me. And maybe I’ll write a post one day about why I don’t like them. But I’m not going to write “by and large, [westerns] are not examples of smooth, well-wrought prose” because even if the three or four I read had crap prose, it doesn’t mean the whole genre does. I’m not going to say “then there are the sex scenes, which are usually objectionable on both form and content grounds” because the westerns I read had to make sure the hero had his requisite blow-job, as just because the books I read threw in sex scenes every fifty pages doesn’t mean other westerns don’t move the story forward with their sex scenes. I’m not going to say “the storylines are boilerplate” because every genre has a basic boilerpoint, that’s why the book is in that genre. I’m not going to start statements about three books as “romance novels” (implying all) rather than saying the title of the particular book.

    I admit my third point (that the article is not informative or even new criticism) was more aimed at his editors than him. I’m just tired of newspapers using the same standard article: read a few romances, dismiss the whole genre, and sit back for the praise of covering such a new and interesting topic. I’m wondering why editors and writers think the best use of their space is to say romance books are porn, and I learned how to make women (all women because dontchaknow they’re all the same) pant. Why can’t they cover something a little different and keep from calling a whole genre they don’t know trashy. (And I realize the writer is not to be blamed for the title; that’s also the editor’s choice usually.) But for such a large genre, they always seem to fall into the same basic question of “what do women want?” According to most articles, “BOOK PORN!”

  21. 21
    Suze says:

    Polly and Orangehands, between the two of you, you’ve covered my every reaction to the review.  Even the parts where you disagree with each other, because I’m a Pisces, and hold mutually-exclusive things to be true all the time.

    Yeah, he was amusing, and he wasn’t necessarily wrong.  But he wasn’t original or particularly interesting, and he definitely weren’t no SBiT Patrick, either.  (By the way, what’s he up to these days?  Exam time?)

    And I have to agree with Heather’s WTF reaction to Twilight being the spark that birthed the paranormal inferno.  Seriously, what person working in publishing could possibly think that?

    capcha: reading27.  Why yes, I am reading 27 different books at the same time.

  22. 22
    meganb says:

    Polly and Orangehands—loved the debate.

    What bothered me is that I believe his editor gave him this assignment with the expectation that he would return a piece that panned the romance genre.  Regardless of whether the tone was snarky or malicious, it was required to be negative.

    If Roose had written a piece expressing surprise and delight at how much he enjoyed romance novels (well, except for the purple prose—is there some kind of handbook for that, like a crossword puzzle dictionary?), would it even have been published?

  23. 23

    expectation that he would return a piece that panned the romance genre.  Regardless of whether the tone was snarky or malicious, it was required to be negative.

    If Roose had written a piece expressing

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