I belong to an erotic book club. What can I say? I have diverse reading interests. I figure, with all the Hemmingway, Faulkner, Carver, and Wolf I read, no one can dare accuse me of being intellectually un-evolved. One might say I am feeding my mind mush, but considering all the nutritious literature I swallow, I argue that it just gives me balance.
Erotic literature can be remarkably well written. Not all of it, of course. Much of it is garbage (like comparing a slush romance novel to Gone with the Wind). But a great deal of it is provocative, and touches upon life’s great truth and humanity. Sex is a basic human drive. How we feel about it is closely woven with our psyche and personality, so it offers a great canvas to paint a story upon. And it’s not like written erotica can be compared to pornographic movies where any evidence of talent, art or intelligence is pushed aside to focus on other sorts of stimulus. Erotic literature is often written by some of the most gifted writers, and in these cases, good literary erotica fascinates me.
Enough justification. I like to read a good sex story. So sue me.
Historically, sex has been the subject of great art for as long as mankind. Just look at Renaissance art, the plays of Shakespeare or the wisdom of Plato. Sex has always been a driving force behind politics, culture, and human behavior. I’m fascinated by how mankind views sex in relation to its current cultural needs. For example, when the species needs to propagate (after war), or when birth control methods become available (look at the 60’s) human sexual morals have loosened, but when power is connected to lineage and control over others is precarious, morals are exaggerated in the other direction. (Vikings, Victorian age). Then there is all those moral associations attached. I find religion’s iron fist on sexual behaviors often at fault for twisting what is a base human drive into something people feel badly about. Shame on them for shaming us.
When viewed academically, sex is really a simple thing. A lovely part of human nature. But the fact that it is so closely connected to our emotions (family ties, religious beliefs, power, self-image, etc…) it tends to be about everything EXCEPT human connection and an expression of love. Sad that.
Lord, I’m on a tangent. What was my point? Oh yea, my book club.
I don’t have time to read anything other than my MFA reading list now a days, but I was looking at the monthly club selections and noting that a particular book of short stories I liked (called, Stories to Make you Blush) had a sequel, so I ordered it. I was fascinated to see that in addition to the normal selections of erotic literature, they also were offering so many racy romance novels. When did that happen? There’s an entire genre of erotic romance hitting the scene, and I was looking, with shock, at all these well-known romance authors, now moving into this hard-core erotic field. They are writing love stories with juicy, graphic sex scenes, I guess, and marketing them as soft porn.
Then, I noticed that they are discontinuing the erotic book club altogether. I suppose I am the last to know. I’ve been throwing away the monthly selection packet since I started grad school. No interest at this time. Anyway, the Venus book club has been bought by a romance club, and they are changing it to a book club featuring “over the top” racy romance books – of which there seem to be an endless supply.
I personally, don’t like these kinds of hard core romance books. I want my romance novels to be “romantic”, more about relationships and story than a set up for sex scenes, and I want my erotic literature to be more “literary” and focused on sex without all the pretense. This hybrid is something else altogether. Unappealing.
Anyway, they have sold my membership to this new company. Since I have no obligation to buy, I’ll stay on the list awhile, just to keep abreast of the changing trends in romantic literature. But the entire thing is weird to me.
Just who is reading all this erotic romance? Is it somehow less conspicuous or less vulgar to read erotica when it is camouflaged as a romance novel? And between you and me, I think this new genre does lack the intellectual fascination of actual erotic literature. The entire thing is a big disappointment to me.
For a long time, I studied the romance market, because I thought I was cut out to write books in the field. But the longer I study writing and the better I get to know myself, the more I realize I don’t fit the mold. My books will always be steeped in romance, for that is how I view the world, but they will always be more than that – more about the people, the history, the STORY of their lives. I will allow sex to seep into my tales when it belongs, not in a contrived way, but because that is, after all, a true rendition of humanity – and sex is a great way to portray character. Not all sex is created equal, ya know, and how one expresses themselves with another says a lot about who they are internally. And face it, I like sex. I am not uncomfortable with the subject, (between sheets of paper or sheets of Egyptian cotton). They say, write what you know. Ha. Talk about a rule that can get me into trouble.
I will probably never be published – not because I don’t write well, but because I won’t write for the market. Can’t go there. I will have to find my own nitch, but to date, I haven’t figured out where that will be.
I think you know you are getting old when you start resenting social change – accusing it of becoming more generic, commercial, and dropping the intellectual bar for the generations to come. Like an old coot complaining that “they don’t make ’em like they used to.”
Don’t know when that happened, but I’m there.