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Posts tagged: romance

At The Gutter: All The Gin Joints

Romance Editor Chris looks at some novels set in the Twenties.

I’m going to flat out admit I know very little about the Roaring Twenties. What little I do is mostly cribbed from still images  and movies like Chicago. You know: jazz! Drinking! Dancing! More drinking! Guns! And did I mention drinking?

Not exactly what you might call a rigorous examination of an era that contained seismic changes in the social, political, and economic landscapes. The Great War changed everyone’s understanding of The Way Things Worked. Many old traditions died — sometimes because there was no one left to keep them — and new ones were created. The Spanish flu proved that disease respected borders even less than aggressive armies. The revolution in Russia made it clear that divine right was wrong, and the US moved into a position of real world power. Commoners moved into positions held previously by only the titled (or super-rich). Women, having kept industry running while the men were away being uselessly sacrificed, showed no desire to retire from the fields previously barred to them, and in fact began to demand more access. The world was suddenly smaller, more fragile, and more interconnected than ever before. And suddenly, shockingly, more elastic.

Photograph taken near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Via Madame Pickwick Art Blog.

"Character and the Audience: The Hyper-Capable Wounded Sparrow"

“Character and the Audience: The Hyper-Capable Wounded Sparrow”

Debbie Moon ponders the “Hyper-Capable Wounded Sparrow” and Captain America: The Winter Soldier: “The Hyper-Capable Wounded Sparrow is always male, and he’s that guy who can kill a roomful of people without breaking a sweat – but who is massively emotionally vulnerable, has no social support system, and is incapable of interacting with civilized society. Frequently he’s physically or temporally…

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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.

Are You In A Jane Austen Novel?

Are You In A Jane Austen Novel?

How do you tell if you are in a Jane Austen novel? You could be in one right now. The Toast helps with “How To Tell If You Are In A Jane Austen Novel.”

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Romance Novels as Respite

Romance Novels as Respite

Alyssa Rosenberg writes on “Another year, another man who is utterly horrified to discover just how many American women read romance novels.” (via @igallupd)

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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: “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."

Retrospective: Vive Le Gutter!

Retrospective: Vive Le Gutter!

jim munroe thumbThe Cultural Gutter turned ten in May, 2013 and we didn’t make much of a fuss about it. But ten years ago this week, Jim Munroe posted the manifesto that’s guided The Cultural Gutter, even as each subsequent editor has joined the Gutter and added their take on our mission. We thought this would be a good time to celebrate our mission and republish it. (And congratulations to our friends at the…

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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."