Friday, December 07, 2007

The Best She's Read

Bindel said that "heterosexual romantic fiction promotes - the sexual submission of women to men": today at Romancing the Blog Sarah's talking about one novel which promotes the sexual submission of one man to another, as well as two other male/male romances:
each of these books tells the romance of a gay couple. One of them goes further than that and details the romance of a seriously kinky gay couple. And as such, my recommendation of these books will be taken by some as a political statement. And I guess depending on when or how you ask me, I mean it as a political statement, if recommending good romances can be seen as political (and I definitely think it can be!)
Sarah says that these are "the three best romances I’ve read recently" and she'd like to know what your recent favourites have been. So if you have any recommendations, please head over to Romancing the Blog and let Sarah know.

The photo is from the "Icing On The Cake" congratulations card from Pink Products.


  1. Rereading that quote, I realize that it's very unclear. I was trying to say that, contrary to what Bindel claims, recommending GOOD romances can be very political, in that I think it's a feminist act that supports healthy female sexuality and a healthy understanding of what it takes to make good, equal relationships. So my post is political merely because it recommends GAY romances, but I'd argue that it's political in that it recommends ROMANCES at all.

  2. recommending GOOD romances can be very political, in that I think it's a feminist act that supports healthy female sexuality and a healthy understanding of what it takes to make good, equal relationships

    But this raises the question of whether, if people read BAD romances, it's an unfeminist act that undermines healthy female sexuality and a healthy understanding of what it takes to make good, equal relationships.

    My answer to that would be to say that yes, bad romances (but you'd have to define "bad" quite carefully) might have that effect. But they almost certainly wouldn't have that effect on everyone, because different readers can interpret the same text in different ways, and some people might focus on particular aspects of the novel which aren't so bad (according to whatever definition of "bad" is being used). And of course, there's the issue of whether some things that might be "bad" if read in a literal way, might not be "bad" if read symbolically, or as a fantasy, or if, as Kinsale argues, the female reader is identifying with the hero, not the "placeholder" heroine.

    Personally, if we're defining "bad" in terms of having a negative effect on the reader's feelings about relationships and sexuality, I'd say that Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a BAD book. Many years ago, it convinced me that virginity was really, really important and that a woman was worthless (from a relationship with a man point of view) without it. Intellectually I knew this was not the case at all, but still, emotionally, it had a horrid, insidious effect.

  3. This is not really related to this topic, but it's a question that's currently bugging me; and I thought possibly someone here might be able to come up with an answer:

    I just got and am about 2/3 of the way through the new Linnea Sinclair, The Down Home Zombie Blues. It's like the others in its mix of slam-bang action, cultural complications, and a hot romance. But for some reason, Bantam has published this one as romance, rather than in its Spectra SF line, like the others. I can't figure out why, as it's not that different and still has much more action than romance. Perhaps it's because this one is set on Earth, with a Terran hero, instead of totally in a galaxy far away? Perhaps it's because they figure it will sell better as romance?

  4. Games of Command has "romance" written in small caps at the top of the spine (picture here), though inside, on the page with all the bibliographic information it says it's "A Bantam Spectra Book".

    If there's been a shift towards romance, maybe it's because her books have been increasingly recognised by the romance community: Gabriel's Ghost won a RITA.

  5. Could well be. It's my impression that writing SF has more status, but writing romance pays better. But since Spectra is supposed to be a select line, it does seem to be a demotion.

    Games of Command has an interesting history. In 2002 Sinclair published Command Performance, which was supposed to have at least one sequel. Games of Command is a profoundly revised version of that book (and presumably, the material that was to be in the sequel, since it carries on from where CP ended); it's fascinating to compare the two and try to figure out why she made some of the changes.

  6. Adding that the new book has several pages in front listing the various awards the book has won or been nominated for--and they are all for romance rather than SF.

  7. Grr. I meant the awards all her books have been given/nominated for!

  8. Also a bit off-topic, though perhaps not as far as Tal. :-) The references to gay romance in Sarah Frantz's blog made me think of calling attention to Jane Rule's groundbreaking Desert of the Heart (1964) and to her subsequent work, which in turn made me check on Google to see if she had published any full-length novels that I hadn't read, which in turn led to the discovery that she has died, aged 76, less than a fortnight ago.
    Most of her fiction cannot be classified as 'romance', though it is all about the myriad faces of love. She was a very great Canadian novelist, but is still sadly underrated because she was pigeonholed as a lesbian woman and lesbian writer from the start. She was a subtle and kindly observer of human nature and relationships. I hope that in future, her quality will be more widely recognised. Go and read one of her novels, everyone!