Consider this a week in review, because there is so much to talk about!
First up: Kirkus!
Last week, a librarian named Maureen drew my attention to a review of Mary Balogh's “The Proposal,” which contained the following concluding paragraph:
Balogh contravenes the conventions of historical romance by introducing an ingredient the genre is not always known for: intelligence.
This week I called Kirkus out on that review, explaining all the reasons that review sucked mightily and reflected poorly upon them as a publication, because I was HOLY CRAP MAD. Like, steam emerging from my ears and making my hair frizzy so I looked like a cocker spaniel mad.
Kirkus has responded, and requested that I post their response, to which I replied, “Surely!” (I'm not calling you “Shirley.”)
Earlier this week, Kirkus published an article by Sarah Wendell titled “Bad, Kirkus, Bad,” and it stimulated quite a bit of controversy. As the fiction editor of Kirkus, I thought it appropriate to respond to the heated comments both in the article and contributed by passionate readers.
First, I want to set the record straight about what Kirkus really thinks about the romance genre and its readers. In short, we love ya. And we would love to review more books for you. Kirkus is a small literary journal, and like many in our shrinking field, we have limited resources. The romance genre is enormous (with more than 150 books published per week!), and unfortunately, we cannot afford to cover as many of its books as we’d like. But I disagree with Sarah’s comment that if we do not have the infrastructure or capacity to build out a full romance section in our print publication, we should ignore all romance titles that are published. Kirkus wants to cover as much of this genre as we can—and if we can only introduce readers to a handful of fabulous romance books per year, we believe that is a worthy undertaking.
Moving on to controversy over our review of The Proposal. I—and all the editors at Kirkus—go to great lengths to assign books to reviewers who are qualified to review particular genres and who are fans of those genres. Perhaps that’s what makes the final line of this review so unfortunate. The reviewer loves romance, especially historical romance, and she holds talented romance authors in high regard. She simply used inappropriate phrasing and I failed to catch it before publishing the review. Our reviewer found the author’s writing to be on the level of Jane Austen—a rare feat for an author of any genre—and she wanted to convey that this book was a standout for that achievement. Did she have to use language that insulted an entire genre of readers and writers? Of course not, and that was not her intention. But we are as appalled as you that we let the line slip through, and we have asked the reviewer to rephrase the line to be a more accurate reflection of her true sentiment.
To Sarah, we do wish you had considered that perhaps we simply made a mistake. That perhaps one poorly phrased sentence does not capture Kirkus’ full intent or expertise. We would have appreciated a more judicious representation of the challenges our business faces in today’s book market, and the unique interest Kirkus has shown in finding innovative ways to shine a light on the romance genre. Nevertheless, we appreciate the vivid conversation you ignited and are grateful for the vital role you play in promoting a fabulous genre that deserves attention.
To romance readers and writers, thank you for caring about how books are covered in the media. Thank you for lighting the torches and standing up for the talented writers in this genre. I offer you my personal apology for the offensive line in the review of The Proposal and my personal assurance that we hear you, respect you and value your passion.
Later today, I'm going out for Shiner Bock (Oh, how I wish) with Kirkus, who I'm told looks like an amalgamation of Kirk Douglas and Captain Kirk (hence KirkUs). (I'm making that up).
Andrew Sullivan, political commentator, has been discussing 50 Shades, and one comment, from a romance author, was highlighted with a post of its own. The author, who remained nameless, also quoted me, which prompted some very fun email in the inbox. The anonymous author wrote:
These issues of what “good girls” should and shouldn't do obscure the larger problems with the story but feed the sales and media frenzy. Some even write off those issues by claiming that the book is just “smut,” so it shouldn't be held up to any sort of standard, but I disagree. What this book says about men and women in relationships is disturbing – and it has nothing at all to do with the kink and everything to do with consent and women's ability to choose their own fantasies without judgement.
To the author who did a bang up job of explaining why 50 Shades didn't work for her, and how it represents some old skool throwback tropes, well played. Cheers and cold beers to you!
A few weeks back, I reported on Brevard County Library's decision to remove 19 copies of 50 Shades of Grey from circulation on the grounds that it was “porn.”
Thank you to the many, many people who forwarded the news that Brevard County Public Library reversed that decision, and made the 200+ people on the waiting list happy by returning that book to the shelves:
The Brevard County Library System will return “Fifty Shades of Grey” to its library shelves.
The decision is in response to public demand, but also comes after considerable review and consideration by the library system. In all, 19 books from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy that were previously available will once again be available through the library system, according to Library Services Director Cathy Schweinsberg.
Hooray for reading for all, and beer for Brevard County librarians!
Speaking of 50 Shades, last Friday I was on the CBC's Connect with Mark Kelley talking about 50 Shades of Grey and why it's popular. I think my segment starts at about :45 m in .
A VERY excited reader emailed me about one of her favorite authors:
I came across some news late last night and I was so very excited I had to share immediately – one of my favorite authors stopped writing a few years back due to some personal situations, and she has recently announced that she's back – that's right, Danelle Harmon has updated her website, and has released her De Montfort brothers series on ebook – and she's in the process of releasing her back catalog electronically as well! I was a huge fan of all her books, but most particularly Captain of My Heart and My Lady Pirate.
Anyway just thought I'd share with the greater Bitchin Community, get on these books ladies they are awesome!
Oh, hot damn diggity awesome! I am very excited to see the covers, as Danelle Harmon had what is easily one of my most favorite old skool covers:
He's looking down his mantitty at her!
Here's the new cover, from Danelle's website:
At least there's still man titty (boy, is there ever) but I do miss those Very Suggestive Columns of Erectness!
And finally, according to Jim L, this month's issue of Cosmopolitan (with Demi Lovato on the cover) has their own erotic story, “51 Shades of Blonde,” with this assembly of consonants and vowels as the opening line:
“If you owned a vagina, you couldn't help but notice this man as he walked into the restaurant.”
Top that. I mean, figuratively. Not like topping in the literal sense. I'm shutting up now. Have a great weekend!