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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Sugar Queen and rants


First of all a few weeks ago, the publicist at Hodder contacted me and asked if I wanted to read The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. She read my blog and thought it might be a book I would like.

This sort of thing rarely happens.
It is Ms Allen's second book and I will be looking to get her first book -- Garden Spells. Ms Allen creates a lovely atmosphere that leads you on into the book. It is definitely a single title women's fiction with romantic elements rather than a romance but I enjoy all sorts of different genres.

Anyway, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read with characters who linger in your mind.

The blurb says Twenty-seven year old Josey is sure of three things:

winter in her North Caroline hometown is her favourite season;

she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle;

and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet

For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romance she escapes to each night...

Until she finds her closet harbouring none other than local waitress Delia Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tender-hearted woman who is one part nemesis and two parts fairy godmother.


It is a coming of age tale and as is usual with a tale set in the American South, long hidden secrets lurk under the surface, add a dash of magic to mix and you are away. But Josey is a good character and I wish Ms Allen well with her next book. I suspect that this will be a word of mouth book...and so I am doing my bit.
And now my rant. I opened my alumni magazine, The Carleton Voice to find an article denigrating romance and by extension the women who read such fiction as well as those who write it. Some MALE English senior has done a project where he pretended to a woman writing a romance. It is a meta fiction. BUT his research seems to have consisted of reading literary theory from the late 80s and early 90s, with no reference to recent scholarship (for example A Natural History of Romance by Pamela Regis or indeed any of the work of the recently formed International Association for the Study of Popular Romance. He also stated that romance writers tend to write in italicised capitals. And that he felt like he was trying to put make up on a dead horse. Huh? According to him, the accepted definition of a romance is the social identity of the heroine comes into question, she goes away for awhile and finally her identity is restored. This is news to me! A more accepted definition of romance is one where the growth of the emotional relationship between the two main protagonists forms the central arc or spine of the story and the ending is emotionally satisfying.
The editor of the Voice felt including this piece was justified as the man was writing fiction and it was the first time something like this had been done as a comps paper. She also felt the tone of the article was justified and predictable as they were talking about a twenty-something male. Umm, I thought the battle of the sexes was fought long before I set foot on the campus in the early 80s. Why should women have their reading matter mocked? Why should men get away with sloppy scholarship since they were dealing with a fluffy piece?
Anyway, I wrote a letter to the editor and then another one after I received the female editor's reply.
I am well aware of the pretensions of some males BUT this smacks of sexism on serious scale and I really expected better of Carleton, a college which is very proud of its liberal traditions. They would never have published the article if the white male student had been mocking say Afro-American fiction. He choose romance rather than say a Walter Mitty male attempting to write a guys with gear who go novel. It was just a serious error of judgement on behalf of the editors. The act of publication implies the college condones and supports those views. Amazing.

1 comment:

Liz Fielding said...

Lucky you, Michelle. I've read Garden Spells, which I loved, and would have loved to have someone offer to send me Sarah's next book.

Not so great about the alumini article. Good grief... No, sorry, I can't write what I'm actually thinking.