Friday, March 16, 2012

Musings while my daughter is home for break...

Boy, college sure has changed since I was there! I remember taking a literature class with a professor I admired, dealing with Existentialism, a subject I was interested in, and hating the book he had us read because he loved it so much. It was called "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". I don't remember much beyond thinking it was immensely boring. But I read it and got an A in the class.

Now my daughter is taking a freshman honors English class at a state college, and she has been assigned to read "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. She said she was having trouble getting into it, so I offered to read it also, so we could discuss it. Suffice it to say the idea is that when people immigrated to the USA they "brought" their gods in the forms of their beliefs, with them. But what happens to "the old ways" when you are here for 2 or 3 generations? Your kids don't want anything to do with them, right? So the gods who came with them are now ignored, no longer worshipped, and they have to pass as humans and earn a living somehow...adapt or die. But now the "new" gods are threatening a "smack-down" because TV, technology, money, etc. are all more important to people as ideas to be worshipped.

Yes, I'll admit it is an interesting premise. But the story is told through the view of an ex-con, a man who has never done anything particularly interesting, yet is now working for one of the oldest gods, but being pursued and contacted by lots of others, both old and new. Okay, I get the idea that we all want to be special, and that's a familiar literary idea. But what really is getting me irked are the occasional unappealing sex scenes. Some are between people, some involve gods and people. But they are told in clinical terms, dispassionately...as interesting and important as using the toilet, which he also discuses. So after the first few episodes I'm thinking, "Okay, sex is just physical. It's for relief of tension. Women (and sometimes other men) are used as receptacles." As the old god tells the narrator, "Sometimes the best thing for what ails a god is a virgin," as he's seducing a barely-legal teenager, which the narrator finds disgusting so he leaves.

What I'm wondering is why is this kind of writing considered to be literature, while books that involve sex being a part of a loving relationship are considered to be trashy?

I guess I may be over-reacting, due to the recent news about the whole Paypal debacle, with them not wanting to "sully" their image (?!?) by being used to allow readers to buy the kinds of books they want to read, or to pay authors royalties on "those kinds of books." What kinds of books? Mostly "the usual suspects" of topics, which most romance writers know to avoid anyway since it's always one of the FAQ on all publishers' websites.

But the point has been made that it seems that romance writers, specifically erotic romance writers, are being singled out as "bad", as if it isn't bad enough that we are considered the red-headed step-children of literature...trashy stuff that no one will admit to reading in public. I wish I had a nickel for every one who asks me what I write, and I say, "Romance novels", and they react as if I've told them I roast and eat puppies. No matter that romance readers are voracious, or that they have contributed the most to the proliferation of eBooks. No, we are now "too dirty" to sully the...what...computer pixels of Paypal's system?

Yet male writers who write dispassionately about sex solely as a body function, are being served up to the public as "great pieces of literature" that students are being forced to buy and read? What gives? Or is this just another side of the "if men do it, and other men are interested in it, then it's good...if women do it and other women are interested in it, then by definition it must be trash."???

Don't get me wrong, I'm well-aware there is a great deal of crap being written by women, but that is simply because there is such an expanded explosion of publishing options that more writers than ever are getting published, even if only as eBooks. But there is a whole lot of crap being written by men also, just not published on some of the sites that have been threatened by Paypal. I wonder why the standards seem to be so different. What do you think?

What kind of books do I write?

Come visit me at: www.fionamcgier.com


Tina Donahue said...

The Paypal thing makes me sick. But someone else will come up with an idea just like it (better than it) and will embrace erotic romance and suddenly Paypal will 'see the light'. Happens all the time.

Great post.

Liz said...

this is a GREAT post! I did love the book American Gods (I love his style--so terse) I will say that it's pretty hypocritical for Pay Pal (and society in general) to demonize "erotic romance" or "romance" for that matter for being "too explicit" when books like "Flowers in the Attic" are considered "mainstream" and it's one looooong incest story.

jean hart stewart said...

Couldn't agree more..I know now that I've written erotica I get raised eyebrows where just romance seemed ok. Yeah, I'm deliberately stressing the erotica. People need to grow up...

Fiona McGier said...

Hey Tina, you're probably right...just follow the money, I guess. Once they are hit in the bottom line, they will all of a sudden decide to reconsider their bans on erotic writing by women? We'll see. Based on the flavor of this year's political forums, I'm not as sure of that as you are.

Liz, do you like Hemingway? I've always hated his 3-word-sentences style, as if manly writing requires writing for a grade-school reader. I have more respect for my readers. I was just wondering, because I guess I dislike this book also partly due to what you call the "terse style". I can't seem to get invested in any of the characters, so consequently when they die, I don't care! I'm just hoping the book ends soon! And by the way, my daughter is halfway through the Hunger Games trilogy, which she started when she got home...talk about procrastination! But then, she is enjoying those books! This one? Not so much!

Jean, the first romance book I wrote was erotic...as are all of the other 9 that have been published, including the free book on Smashwords. I figure the fact that my book is a free download means that they won't be in a hurry to take it down, since it doesn't involve Paypal at all. And yes, people DO need to grow up...sex is not just for nasty titillation purposes...it is supposed to be a joy that two bodies can share together, helping to meld two people into one. (Can you tell I don't write menage? (;-D)