So it turns out that Blake Bailey, the author of the latest Phillip Roth biography, has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault along with predatory behavior when he was a public school teacher. If the accusations are true, that’s bad. The biography had been getting good reviews, but his publisher, W. W. Norton, pulled it and cancelled all future printings based on the accusations.
I think every reader picks up a book of fiction and thinks, “Tell me a story.”
Not “give me beautiful writing” or “give me the psychological profile of a character” or “describe a setting vividly” or “dazzle me with a theme.” All of those things are good and to be hoped for, but the overarching need of most readers who deliberately choose fiction is “Give me a story.”
I came to this conclusion while reading the opening page of a BookBub offering. (I learn a lot from BookBub samples.)
I’ve been thinking about sex in romance novels lately. (This is going to ramble some. My Deep Thoughts often ramble.)
I used to get reviews that said my romances were pretty hot. I reread a couple of those books recently and compared with what’s out now, they’re barely lukewarm. That’s fine with me, but I’m wondering now what the blurring of the lines between romance and erotica means to the genre. That is, how is it redefining romance? I have no problems with erotica, but it doesn’t have the same aims as romance, any more than women’s fiction is romance-centered. I’m not even sure chick lit is romance, but then I’ve never really been sure what chick lit is. The point is, romance is the only genre that’s romance centered, so what happens to romance within the genre is important.
Every spring, I kick myself for not starting a journal at the beginning of January, and then I remember I’ve been doing this blog for fourteen (?) years and that’s kind of like journaling, although I don’t publish the dark side of my life because who needs that? and besides I’m trying to project an air of competence and calm here, not scream into the night in despair and longing.
Where was I? Oh, right, happiness.
So I decided this week that since 2020 was such a cesspit, I’m throwing all of it out. Well, not the stuff I was writing, but the baggage that comes with it, the growing certainty that I’m a shallow mediocre writer, and the even stronger certainty that this cottage that I love is going to fall in on my head and kill me. Story of my life: Love gone wrong.
I’m going to be missing most of this week on Argh (don’t worry, I’ll put the Wednesday and Thursday posts up) because, uh, I’m losing my mind, what little there was left of it. But because people have asked in the comments and in private . . .
I’m having a hard time concentrating this week, even harder than usual, because my country appears to be imploding. Since I’m firmly on the side of the protesters, I’m thinking this is a good thing, the kind of thing that brings about change that’s much needed, but there’s so much bad to go with it, which means I should be doing something, saying something. Also I’m getting a root canal today. Added to all of that is the knowledge that the few times I’ve spoken up, I’ve gotten clobbered with “Oh, Jennifer, I’m so disappointed in you,” from readers who evidently thought that I must agree with them in thought, word, and deed or fall from grace, and my inclination is to step aside, not so much so that I won’t disappoint anybody (fuck them, my job is not to live up to their expectations) but because what I think and do are irrelevant. I think this is why I’m obsessively rereading the Murderbot stories: They’re about a powerful being with a strong central moral core who protects good people and defeats the bad, and it doesn’t hurt that when he needs to escape reality, he watches stories obsessively. Continue reading →
I just read a recipe on the Bon Appetit website and realized I had all the ingredients to make it, not just the onions and beef which I would always have had but the three inches of ginger root, the sesame oil, and the fresh lemon, not to mention the bok choy he suggested as a side dish. It made me think, “Huh. Maybe I’m a cook.” Mostly it made me feel competent. Which made me happy.
I’m okay with isolation, especially since nature is waking up and smelling the forsythia, but the news is kneecapping me, all the “this is going to get much, much worse” stuff from American media that is undoubtedly true and necessary to get people like me to put on a face mask. My house is dragging me down; it’s time to throw out everything, I’m thinking, well okay, not everything, you know, just a lot of it. I’m out of bok choy and celery. And then Monday, my mother died.
Sometimes I think about some of the bad reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon, and wonder why people picked up the book in the first place. My fave may always be “Well, it’s not Shakespeare” (when did I say, “Buy this book, it’s Elizabethan drama”?) but there will be a new you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me comment along at any moment. That’s why I love Amber Share’s bad-reviews-of-national-parks posters, all taken from actual reviews of parks and which all sound like something Trump would have said. Continue reading →