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Posts tagged: chris szego

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.

At The Gutter: Thieves to the Left of Me, Killers to the Right

Romance Editor Chris takes a look at the bad boys of romance—“I’m talking about the seriously bad. The criminal.”

That’s a tough character choice.  The writer has to make someone who already has already demonstrated that he has no respect for the law and by extension, public welfare, into the hero.  That’s hard going. Thing is, when it works, it works really REALLY well.

Image via Existential Ennui

At The Gutter: No, It Really Is What You Know

Romance Editor Chris shares a thing or two she learned from reading romance novels.

[C]urrently I’m after exploring how one might develop a more general sense of learning from Romance novels. And because right now the humidity is making me grumpy, I’m thinking about how Romance novels have in fact taught me a very useful life skill:  how to deal with things that annoy me.

You think I’m kidding.  You’re wrong.

Painting by Frank Townsend Hutchens.

At The Gutter: Strong. Women.

image

Romance Editor Chris has some things to say about strength and strong female characters.

Ever have one of those months in which several disparate threads from different aspects of your life all suddenly seem to be part of the same cloth? I’m having one right now. The recent truly excellent articles by carol and alex combined with the current interwebs-fueled firestorm over ‘fake geek girls’ and the collective cognitive failure of the Texas legislature have combined to give me some deeper insight into why I so dislike the ever-growing trend of the ‘kick-ass’ Romance heroine.  More specifically, the way ‘kick-ass’ has become the default instead of ‘strong’.

The kick-ass heroine possesses at least moderate physical skill, often carries a weapon, and tends towards snark. She’s usually in leather clothing and/or stompy boots (and probably has a tattoo or two).  To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with any of those attributes, taken singly or even together. But the combination is now so prevalent that it’s become the standard of  ‘strong heroine’ when it is only one example of what is truly an infinite variety -and not the most interesting at that. The clothes, the one-liners, the boots: those are just accessories.  A character isn’t strong because of how tough she looks, or talks, or even how many punches she takes:  she is strong because of what she does.

"Strength" from the Visconti Tarot Deck (15th Century)

At The Gutter: Beach Reading

Romance Editor Chris shares the the best qualities to look for in beach reading.

Beach reading is a particular phenomenon. It’s the reason airport bookstores carry racks and racks of bestsellers instead of a curated collection. It’s a time for people who read for work, duty, or education to relax a little and remember how to read for pleasure. And it’s also a time when you read less expensive books because they may get covered in sand, sunscreen or snack food.