Tag Archive | books

Book Reviews: an apology.

Book reviews – an apology.

It’s still my intention to review books here and I will return to reviews shortly. I apologize for the delay.  I have a list on-going and am currently working through ‘Love Burns Bright: A Lifetime of Lesbian Romance’.  More of that later, but thus far it’s an excellent read.

 

Writing right – about sex and gender.

Not a young man, I noticed long, long ago that positive female role models were few and far between.  Somehow I was exposed early to certain macho prejudices and learned to despise them, rapidly growing in the conviction that anything a man could do a woman could do – if she chose to – no less effectively.  I decided that if I ever got to write, the females in my stories would be those I would want my daughter to read about.

I tried a children’s book which, in its draft form, a great many older female readers thoroughly enjoyed, but it was of a kind – my prospective publisher told me – that people no longer bought except as picture books, but it was in writing erotica that I seemed to find my real opportunity.  I am wondering, still, if I haven’t taken some steps in the wrong direction.

The character Susanna, in my first novel, ‘Aphrodite Overboard’, set in the late 18th Century, describes her ‘assets’ as “a body barely twenty-one years of age and of comely proportions very appropriate to the latest fashions come from France”.  She is blonde, has a blonde haired ‘quim’, and from the illustrations on the covers of the paperback and later ebook editions is clearly slender and lovely.  I am not sure, now, how much I wrote her ‘slender’, how much it is assumed from other things in the text and how much it derives from our conventions as to how sexy heroines should look.

Zuri, the girl who will turn up in my second novel, ‘Islands’, due for imminent release, is black and African, is described by a male observer in the following words: “Even so one could tell even then that this was a girl who was normally plump and rounded and that her face, if not beautiful, was really quite pretty.”  

Susanna and Zuri are strong, capable, courageous and intelligent women and, in their particular ways, sexually liberated women – the one because she’s given the opportunity to escape the conventions of her time, the other because those conventions have never been inflicted upon her.

I am not sure, at all, that I have managed in my writing to avoid following the conventional ideas of ‘beauty’ and ‘prettiness’ which Charlotte Bronte found troublesome so long ago, encouraging her to write ‘Jane Eyre’.  I am not sure that I have not added to the conventional perceptions which currently drive girls and women to painful extremes in their attempts to emulate them.

What I would like to know – from women, for whom I principally write – is what their own ideal heroines would look like?

 

Book Reviews

Since anybody can comment on/review a book, why should you read my reviews?

Your choice of course, but I’d like to set out a little of the background:

Recently returned to ERWA, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association (www.eroticareaders.com/‎), after a long absence, I’m hoping to get back to reading and critiquing the work of writers and aspiring writers.  ERWA has always been the place to go to learn and to improve your writing – a writing community where members are supportive, where many members have extensive experience and knowledge – often having started their writing careers with ERWA – where newcomers are welcome and kindly received.

Without ERWA my own “Aphrodite Overboard” – a book which I am endlessly proud to have written – might never have come into existence.  Without the confidence some of the readers and writers there gave to me a number of anthologies might well have been published without my contributions, and my up-coming new book, ‘Islands’ might never have been written.

ERWA helped me to discover that I knew a good story when I saw one and, before my life became both hectic and difficult there was a time when authors there were very glad of my critical input.  When I began to host other writers’ work on my website some years ago, in a section called ‘Velvet Tongues’ (Les Langues de Velours) I was happily able to help one writer transform a story that didn’t quite work into a story nominated for an erotica award.

I want, now, to take the art of constructive criticism one logical step further.

I write – and read accordingly – with an agenda.  I will not pretend otherwise.  That agenda is informed by the fact that I believe human society, by and large, has ‘got sex wrong’ and the effects are sometimes just sad, sometimes catastrophic.  There is little more catastrophic than a child being driven to suicide because of the fixed and unquestioning prejudices of those around him (or her or whatever), than an individual being scourged, imprisoned, executed, for no more than being different to what the perceived majority thinks they should be, than a human being suffering rape and abuse, physical and mental, because fundamental and stupid prejudices are insufficiently challenged.

Like others I have my own definition of erotica and pornography.  Pornography cynically exploits, metaphorically sends its children to beg on the streets in order that it may itself live in comfort.  Erotica collaborates affectionately, facilitates fantasy that oppresses no-one.

On such bases, then, and time permitting, I hope to critique more books and stories and to respond genuinely to what I find.  I hope it will prove useful.