Tuesday News: Misremembering Harlequin, short story machines, ask an ob/gyn, and the Vulgar Tongue
In Harlequin’s new Dare series, heroines own their sexuality – In general I’ve found it’s better to ignore some of the most ignorant pieces on the Romance genre – because why get riled up over people who don’t, won’t, and don’t even want to get it? But I made an exception with this piece, both because I have a deep respect for Harlequin’s history and have had it with people trashing category Romance as backward, somehow. Because in the case of Harlequin, it’s quite the reverse – after more than fifteen years of voracious genre reading, I still find some of the most subversive, interesting, sexually progressive books among Harlequin’s titles. I’ve said this many times, so what’s one more: I think LaVyrle Spencer’s 1984 Spring Fancy – the first Temptation title – is more progressive than many Romance novels being published today. From Charlotte Lamb to Jo Leigh to Maura Seger to Molly O’Keefe to Kathleen O’Reilly and beyond, there are so many authors who wrote strong, independent, sexually powerful heroines, and even when the heroines were more conflicted, the sexual politics were complex, interesting, and relevant. So now Harlequin has a new line, Dare, and apparently people think it’s a new direction for Harlequin. Side question: are these longtime Harlequin people working to publish this line? Because, uhm, well, ever since the publisher sold to HC, I’ve been less than thrilled and impressed.
Pink fluorescent tubing, the kind you might imagine buzzing in a red-light district, spells out the logo for Dare, a new line of Harlequin romance novels branded as the publisher’s most sexually explicit books to date. On the covers, no beefcake Fabios or ripped bodices. Instead, toned women straddle men and push them up against brick walls, staring them straight in the eye.
The forward heroines are a new look for Harlequin, which has been peddling women’s fantasies for nearly 70 years. Launching this month, Dare has been marketed as a modernization of the way Harlequin treats sex.
Female agency and pleasure are at the forefront, euphemisms have been ditched for graphic terms and rose petals and candlelight have been replaced by blow jobs in moving cars. – The Globe and Mail
The Short Story Dispenser Is Staying Physical In A Virtual Book Industry – I know this is a gimmick, but I think it’s pretty cool, especially if they get these in airports and train stations, where people are often looking for something to read on a short journey. Also, it satisfies the “print” crowd without requiring the actual publishing apparatus that whole books do, and I wonder if it could be a way for literary communities to create and define their own collective content.
But one innovation has broken new ground for voracious readers who prefer their next story stay in the physical realm. The Short Story Dispenser, which made a splash last month at CES 2018, is a kiosk designed to spit out a receipt-like scroll of eco-friendly paper holding a short story matching your specifications. You just need to tell the dispenser whether you’d prefer a 1-minute, 3-minute, or 5-minute read, and you’ll get a free story to pass the time while you wait for a train or in line at a theme park.
Short Edition, a French startup founded in 2011, are the minds behind the machine. The storytelling startup has built an online literary community of independent authors — over 14,000 authors have submitted stories. Short Edition’s platform holds over 100,000 short stories, which have together garnered over 18 million reads. – Forbes
We Asked a Gynecologist About That Ice-Cream Scene in Fifty Shades Freed – This article reminded me a bit of those books that can’t seem to position the hymen properly and helpful illustrations that offer gentle correction. Except more. Of everything. Although it does raise the question of how knowledgeable different romance authors really are about sex and anatomy. Oh, and the gynecologist in question here is Lauren Streicher, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause and author of Sex RX: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever.
What’s your level of familiarity with the Fifty Shades franchise?
I read the books when they first came out, mainly because I was getting inquiries from writers about what I thought. As a sexual-medicine expert and gynecologist, I needed to know what was in them! Fortunately, it didn’t take me very long, because they’re, as you know, a very fast read and very poorly written [laughs]. [E.L. James] uses the same words again and again, and they’re not very long words.
Was any part of you alarmed by any of it, from a sexual-health perspective?
Certainly the whole idea that she was coerced, in many ways, into this relationship, into a dominating sort of thing. That’s always a little uncomfortable. But it’s fiction. It’s really about fantasy. Fantasy and reality are two different things. I didn’t really find it that alarming. I was mostly alarmed by the bad writing. – Vulture
Read A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Hilarious & Informative Collection of Early Modern English Slang (1785) – And who doesn’t need a dictionary compiled by the aptly named Francis Grose, a man who “cruised the watering holes of Covent Garden and the East End, eating, boozing, and listening” for particularly ripe and ribald examples of “vulgar” language.
But A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is also an important academic resource all its own, and “would strongly influence later dictionaries of this kind,” notes the British Library—those like J. Redding Ware’s 1909 Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang, and Phrase. We can see in Grose’s work how many slang words and phrases still in common use today—like “baker’s dozen,” “gift of the gab,” “birds of a feather,” “birthday suit,” and “kick the bucket”—were just as current well over 200 years ago. And we get a very vivid sense of the world in which Grose moved in the many metaphors employed, most involving food and drink. (A “butcher’s dog,” for example, refers to someone who “lies by the beef without touching it; a simile often applicable to married men.”) – Open Culture
Well, when one of the line’s authors trots out the old “it’s not your grandma’s romance,” we can’t really expect the media to do a great job. WTF, women only read when they’re trapped and have nothing better to do? And shame on romance for not depicting the female orgasm as universally difficult to achieve while simultaneously allowing women to have icky “feminized” jobs? Way to demand transparently obvious specifics for “realism” (denying women sexual pleasure) and “feminism” (everything feminine is bad). I see what you did there. Pity their comment function is experiencing technical difficulties.
Yeah, I shouldn’t have clicked that one.
I’m going to check out Lauren Streicher’s book. I love her deadpan humor.