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Posts tagged: chris szego

At The Gutter: For Worse and For Better. But Mostly Worse.

Chris shares her least favorite current trends in Romance.

We’ve finally gotten down to actual summer weather in the last two weeks. So of course I spent the last two weeks without AC as I dealt with a series of cascading electrical problems. One complete power shut-down later, things are finally back on the level… just in time for the humidity to drop to a bearable level.

Argh, argh, argh.

Since I’ve pretty much hit peak Crabby, I’m believe I’m in a good place to write my annual complaints piece.  This is the column in which I enumerate the things I dislike about the Romance genre. As usually, I won’t single out specific titles — rather, I’ll talk about the larger trends and habits across the genre that make me go “”@#$%!”

But since I didn’t manage to burn every good feeling out of my heart (because the AC came back on before I actually had to sacrifice the contractor to the dread gods of the humidex), this time I’ll also add  counterexamples, writers who manage to do whatever-it-is well instead of poorly.

Image: “Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring” (1943) by Laura Knight. (via The Guardian)

At The Gutter: Powers That Be

Romance Editor Chris shares some of her favorite romance novels set in a political context.

By some strange quirk of timing and location, I am currently involved in or gearing up for three different elections at once.  On the federal front it’s just a by-election to fill a recently vacated seat: it is the least visible and strident of the three. The provincial election is in full swing, loud and messy. There are canvassers at the door every day, and the radio is so full of political ads that I’m forced to  switch stations every second song. As for our municipal election… frankly, it’s a relief. We’re only in the lead-up period now, and no doubt the actual campaigns will be as annoying as any other, but getting rid of the most embarrassing mayor in the world will a be a true civic  pleasure.

I’ve done a lot of reading in the past couple weeks, trying to get past the boasting and blaming of campaign culture to really get a gauge on candidates and their positions. Consequently I’ve also done a lot of other reading in order to recover from that process. Romances can be good for that. Funnily enough, because modern Romances touch on every aspect of modern life, they can also be about  politics, or politicians, or even the elections process.  Ha. Talk about timing.

At The Gutter: The Bitter Coin

This week, Chris remembers war memorials in Shropshire and revisits the books of Simone St. James:

City monuments are big. They have to be: they need to remind a large audience to pay attention. It is horrible and heart wrenching and necessary to read names by thousands in places like Washington. But in hamlets too small to be named on any map, it is somehow even more pointed. The forty names listed might have represented half the area’s population. An entire generation – most of it my age or younger – vanished. All of a sudden it wasn’t just history any more, it was personal. The scale of loss weighed out in stark, cold coin.

I am reminded again every time I read Simone St. James.

Image: Oswestry Cambrian Railway War Memorial in Shropshire. Via Roll Of Honour.

At The Gutter: “K-Dramas and Life Lessons”

During this month’s Switcheroo, Romance Editor Chris writes about her newfound love of and lessons she’s learned from Korean tv melodramas:

Last April, I wrote about my first foray into anime. I had a great time with it, and my successful venture had a of couple unintended side-effects. For one thing, I enjoyed that first series so much that I tried another, then another, then many more (which led to me finally figuring out how to make Netflix play it in Japanese. Hurrah, technological success!). And then, when my choices narrowed down to only shows I didn’t want to watch, I began to read manga instead.

I’ve read a lot of manga since then. A LOT. It was a boon to my local library, since I signed out a dozen of volumes every couple of days for months. [NB: the TPL has a pretty good manga collection] One series I couldn’t get the timing right with was Boys Over Flowers, by Yoko Kamio. So when Netflix  coughed up a Korean television adaptation of the series, I was chuffed.

At The Gutter: “And They Call It Puppy Love”

Chris looks at pets in romance novels:

I own several shares of a cat.

It’s not a weird as it sounds. A friend with a cat travels travels a lot, so the kitty spends a fair amount of time with me. She’s spending this week with me in fact, while her owner is off swimming, running, and cycling hundreds of kilometres at a triathlon training camp. Voluntarily. The cat and I are occupied with much more civilized pursuits, like synchronized napping.

There’s nothing quite like the pleasure of falling asleep with purring cat by your side (and I say that as a person who is extremely allergic). But then, there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of a dog, either. Aside from the walks, and the fetching, and the sweet, sweet, eyes, a dog loves more than anything else on earth. What’s not to like about a creature so overjoyed to see you when you come out of the bathroom it’s like you’ve come back from the dead?

So this seems like a good week to look at Romances with pets in them. Narratively speaking, pets are a smart device: they’re a great way to demonstrate character (for good or bad). But some people write pets better than others, and I thought we might take a look at a few of those.

Image: Henri Matisse, “Girl with A Black Cat” (1910) via "A Survey of Cats across the Centuries."

At The Gutter: The Turn Of The Tale

Romance Editor Chris shares some of her favorite fairy tale retellings.

When it comes to fairy tales, I’m no purist. I love re-tellings, revisions, old favourites made new and strange. That, I think, is what I liked best about Frozen: it took the bare idea of the Snow Queen and told a completely different story, albeit one in which we can vaguely recognize the original. And that reminded me of some of my favourite fairy tale retellings… and how  so many of them are love stories.

Image, “Beauty and the Beast” by Walter Crane. Via "Grimm Girls: Picturing the Princess."

At The Gutter: You’ve Got A Friend

Romance Editor Chris writes about friendship in stories:

We move through out lives making connections at work, at home, at play. Not all of those relationships are the kind to see you head off a cliff together rather than be parted, but they’re real nonetheless. I’m pretty sure Richard Florida has written at least one book about this.  But we don’t need statistics to know it’s true. Lifetime or situational; professional or personal: we live in an ever-changing network of ties ranging from adamantine to momentary.

In short, we have friends.

(cover from Kimi Ni Todoke #8, which Chris discusses in her piece.)

At The Gutter: These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

Romance Editor Chris shares some of her favorite books from 2013:

I always enjoy writing a ‘Best Of’ column, and this year it’s particularly timely. Not only do I work in retail (which is category 5 insane right now) but my week also included a bicycle accident and a broken water main. Frankly, I needed some happy time. It did me good to think about and/or  re-read the books I liked best this year.  Here are a few of them.

At The Gutter: All Alone In The Moonlight

Romance Editor Chris thinks about story and memory at the Gutter this week.

Recently I moderated a panel discussion on CanLit and the SF/F genre and it got me to thinking.  Specifically, it got me thinking about memory. And that’s because if there’s one thing modern Canadian literature is full of, it’s memory. Years ago (a decade, mebbbe?)  an industry journal published a chart detailing the subjects of that season’s big-bet books.  It was a tongue-in-cheek piece, but it turned out that some ridiculously high percentage of the ‘must read’ novels were all about memory.  Ha, it’s funny ’cause it’s true! Next to identity, memory is one of the themes that helps define a distinct Canadian Literature.

Here’s the thing, though: that’s not just true for CanLit.  All stories are about memory.

Painting: “Memory or the Heart,” Frida Kahlo (1937)

At The Gutter: Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

Romance Editor Chris explores the charms of winter:

This week, I thought I saw the first snow of the season. Turns out it was actually sleet, which is kind of like snow’s annoying idiot cousin. But I got excited anyway, because the thing is…

I love winter.

Don’t get me wrong: that doesn’t mean I don’t love fall and spring too. Bright green things unfurling; leaves flaming against a crackling sky – both are wonderful. Spring and fall are energizing and beautiful. Summer… eh, not so much. The heat’s nice, but the humidity can go back to hell at its earliest convenience. I like to do things in the summer, but the season itself is on the bottom of my list.

Winter’s on the top.