Mad to Miss it, Sad to Skip it: Megan Hart’s Dirty

I’ve decided to start a new feature, in which I talk about books that I love. I haven’t just finished them — I feel like I need at least six months and one reread to make sure my initial fondness wasn’t due to hormones, illicit drugs, or being the first halfway decent read after a slew of crappola — but they’re still on my mind as examples of what I have enjoyed the most about this genre.

They’re books that you’d be mad to miss and sad to skip!

(I better not quit my day job for a career in marketing, huh?)

This post is actually an offshoot from another idea I had for a regular feature called “A Fangirl Rewrites Your Review”, wherein I take a negative review of a book I love and, um, revise it a little.

But I’m not going to talk about those other reviews. You want to know why? Because I’m not trying to hear that, as Positive K rapped lo these many years ago. See, I haven’t merely read this book. I’ve bonded with it. My love for this book has vaulted way beyond rational persuasion. It’s somewhere in that realm where fangirls rule and naysayers cower, where the streets are paved with fanfiction, and where Squeenglish is the only language spoken.

Comments are welcome, even by those who just don’t get it disagree. But please know that I descended from fangirland to write this post in an impenetrable bubble — kind of like the Popemobile, only sexier — of delirious reader satisfaction which you cannot possibly burst.

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Published in: on November 14, 2008 at 8:56 pm  Comments (14)  
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Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: Alpha Heroes as Nietzschean Supermen

Pure silliness ahead.

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A lot of people know that the lyric from Kanye West’s “Stronger”, “N-n-now that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger” is sort of a Nietzsche quote. Well, I happened to be reading Nietzsche today, then heard “Stronger” on the way home, then the idea for a post came to me. (Plus, a Texas lit prof was banned, temporarily, it turns out, from putting the German version of Nietzsche’s most quoted sentence, “God is Dead” on his office door, so I felt like I needed to spread the Nietzsche as much as possible in retaliation.)

Nietzsche was very critical of everyday morality — the “we are all equal”, “go along to get along”, “subordinate your will to the will of the group” morality —   which he felt kept the “higher types”, the truly excellent, flourishing human beings, down, ashamed of the very things they should be most proud of. Judeo-Christian morality, Nietzsche felt, was a complicated and ingrained rationalization for a lot of base human emotions, like envy, resentment, and fear. He hoped that, among other things, his critique and exposure of morality as a disease could help in releasing/creating these higher men.

So, what characteristics did these higher men (and they were always men) possess (you can read more here)?

They were solitary, pursued a unifying life project, healthy, life-affirming, and self-reverent.

Solitary — not congenial, not nice, not eager to curry the favor of strangers. Unconcerned with what “they” think.

Unifying life project – he is driven, he seeks out burdens and responsibilities, rather than shying away from them. But it’s not random boldness: he has a life purpose that animates everything he does.

Healthy — resilient, strong (the Kanye West lyric above). Even when the higher man is down, is tortured, is physically ill, he uses it as a challenge to overcome.

Life-affirming — No regrets. The higher man turns everything somehow to his advantage, makes it a part of the narrative of his life. Would he do it all over again, exactly the same way? Yes.  (Nietzsche writes: “I myself have never suffered from all this; what is necessary does not hurt me; amor fati [love of fate] is my inmost nature” (Ecce Homo H III:CW-4).

Self-reverential – not plagued by self-doubt, self-loathing, he has a “fundamental certainty” about himself. He is powerful, and has power over himself. He is severe with himself and others. He is noble, he is of a different rank than other men, has a different bearing.

“Our weak, unmanly social concepts of good and evil and their tremendous ascendancy over body and soul have finally weakened all bodies and souls and snapped the self-reliant, independent, unprejudiced men, the pillars of a strong civilization” (Daybreak 163).

Not all romance heroes have all of these qualities (the Chase cover works better for the pose mirroring Nietzsche’s than for the hero possessing these traits), but it struck me that there’s some interesting overlap, especially when alpha heroes transgress everyday morality to exact revenge, seduce a virgin, steal, etc. in the name of a life-organizing project.

It would be interesting to try to think of a hero who fits all of the above. I’m all out of ideas at the moment.

Published in: on November 10, 2008 at 10:13 pm  Comments (22)  
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Vacation — a great way to start blogging. Not.

Ok, so starting a blog a few days before I took off on summer vacation was maybe not the best idea. I thought I could get a few posts in, the way I have seen those hard core bloggers on the sidebar do, but alas, I obviously have a long way to go before I can be described as even a “medium-soft core” blogger.

I am almost finished listening to Susan Mallery’s Irresistable, and am half way through Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Serpent Prince. I also recently read or listened to (as in least week) Nora Roberts’ Born in Fire, which was my very first Nora read (I have read some of the JD Robbs).

Reviews soon!

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 8:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Why this blog?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this blog to be. I know the blog will meet a personal need to keep track of what I read. But as I was driving to pick up my kids from camp yesterday, listening to the Audible.com version of Susan Mallery’s Irresistable, it hit me what else I want it to do: be a meta review site.

Being an academic, I research everything. I hate to be a walking (typing?) stereotype, but it’s true. So, when I am thinking about whether to buy a romance novel, especially by an author who is new to me, I read lots of reviews.

When I am deciding whether to purchase a book, I read reviews on Amazon.com (often this makes me feel a bit icky afterwards, but I have to start somewhere), then on to my favorite romance review websites (see the links on the sidebar). It is no surprise that reviews on Amazon.com are all over the map, what with authors’ husbands, BFFs, critique partners, and pet parakeets vying to get the raves in before disgruntled former fans, competing authors, and evil pet monkeys skew things with their one star slams. And then you have the batch of folks who wandered in from some other genre, complaining that the book focuses heavily on the central relationship between the heroine and hero, that there is sex (!), and that everything gets resolved in the end. So, not so reliable.

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Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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Welcome!

Romance readers are a voracious bunch, as anyone familiar with the genre will tell you. We make romance a very big business indeed.

When I picked up my first romance as an adult (I had read a few in middle school — more on that in a later entry), in spring of 2007, I had no idea how hooked I would become. Since then, I have read probably 100 or more novels. Occasionally, I will pick up a book from my shelf and not know whether it belongs in the To Be Read (TBR) pile, the Keeper pile, or the Sell on EBay/Local Used Book Store/Goodwill pile.

There are some great tools online for finding particular titles. All About Romance has a Power Search engine you can use to search by author, title, subgenre, even sensuality level. You can search by hero or heroine name at the Historical Romance Writers site. Or, you can utilize the Help A Bitch Out (HaBO) query at Smart Bitches.

I decided to start this blog to keep tabs on my own journey through the genre. I read several different subgenres of romance, both older titles, and those hot off the press. I’d like to remember what I’ve read and how those books struck me when I read them. The model for the “review and record” aspect of this blog is Rosario, whose blog is one of my inspirations.

I also may have a few things to say about the genre from my personal perspective as an academic who teaches (among other things) feminist theory and gender studies. My research area is not popular culture, and I claim no knowledge of the growing academic literature on romance (for that, see Teach Me Tonight), but I can’t help looking at everything around me through the lens of gender, and, on a personal level, my interest and complete enjoyment of this genre conflicts with my long held belief that it is part of the problem rather than the solution to gender injustice. I hope writing about my experience as a reader will help me work through what I feel is a tension between my professional identity and personal life.

Published in: on August 3, 2008 at 8:59 pm  Comments (7)  
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