Links: Saturday, November 2nd

November 2, 2013 Links 6

Four Lego mini figures made to resemble the women from the TV show Golden Girls.The Golden Girls Brick People Toy Set

  • The Logic of Stupid Poor People – A lot of interesting stuff in here about respectability politics and all the ways the game is rigged against the poor.

    I remember my mother taking a next door neighbor down to the social service agency. The elderly woman had been denied benefits to care for the granddaughter she was raising. The woman had been denied in the genteel bureaucratic way — lots of waiting, forms, and deadlines she could not quite navigate. I watched my mother put on her best Diana Ross “Mahogany” outfit: a camel colored cape with matching slacks and knee high boots. I was miffed, as only an only child could be, about sharing my mother’s time with the neighbor girl. I must have said something about why we had to do this. Vivian fixed me with a stare as she was slipping on her pearl earrings and told me that people who can do, must do. It took half a day but something about my mother’s performance of respectable black person — her Queen’s English, her Mahogany outfit, her straight bob and pearl earrings — got done what the elderly lady next door had not been able to get done in over a year. I learned, watching my mother, that there was a price we had to pay to signal to gatekeepers that we were worthy of engaging. It meant dressing well and speaking well. It might not work. It likely wouldn‘t work but on the off chance that it would, you had to try. It was unfair but, as Vivian also always said, “life isn’t fair little girl.”

  • Reporting from the Popular Romance Author Symposium – Jackie Horne sums up a joint author-scholar romance event. Interesting comments about not defending the genre and instead treating it like it can withstand criticism like anything worth studying.

    Much of the early academic writing about popular romance tended to lump all texts together, writing about romance as if it were one unified thing. Long after individual romance authors broke free from publishers’ category lines and established themselves as marketable in themselves, scholarship is finally beginning to take note. The Popular Romance Author Symposium, organized by scholar An Goris, was the first broadscale attempt to bring scholars and writers together to attempt to explore the implications of this shift, and to attempt to determine what being a romance author might have in common with being an author of any other popular genre fiction, and what might be unique about romance authorship in particular.

  • I Flunk at Grading – Grading what I read can be so weird sometimes, often for the reasons Willaful mentions. I think that’s why very few books get A’s or F’s from me. It’s hard to place a book in an extreme category like that without comparing it to the few other books in there. It’s much easier to judge a book adequate.

    It seems that I’m trying to analyze what I used to just rely on, my gut reaction. The quality of the writing matters to me, as does the general intent — I won’t expect great depths of characterization in a Harlequin Presents, for example, but it damn well better deliver on the gut-twisting. (Another way in which risky books make this harder, since it’s not always as obvious what the intent is.) But ultimately, I think it comes down to the reading experience for me. That’s the place I want to grade from, the place that says yes, in this context it makes perfect sense to give the same grade to Emma and to The Brazillion’s Blackmailed Mistress.

  • Philadelphia Passes Sweeping LGBT Legislation – This is a great move for LGBT equality, and a great fuck you to the “black people are homophobic” people. High marks to Philadelphia for this, and I hope it spreads quickly.

    When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed legislation Thursday to afford equal rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, he said he hoped Philadelphia would become “the most LGBT-friendly” city in the world.

    …Nutter, city and state lawmakers and gay rights advocates said the legislation makes Philadelphia the first city in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees’ domestic partners and their children as they provide to heterosexual spouses and their children.

    Officials said the legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits.

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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6 Responses to “Links: Saturday, November 2nd”

  1. willaful

    Thanks for the link — your links are always so meaty, I consider it a real compliment.

    I’ve been interested to see the piece on poor people and status symbols going around. It’s so very difficult to “pass” when you’re poor and hopeless for me because I never understood the rules of the game to begin with.

  2. Fangs 4 the Fantasy (@Fangs4Fantasy)

    On the reviews – I think this is why it’s so important to have several negative grades and several positive grades because there are so many degrees. Comparing other books of the same grade is the first thing I do to ensure consistency. In the rush of just having finished a book, it’s easy to yell “I HATES IT PRECIOUS!” or “ZOMG I LOOOOOVE IT FOREVER MORE!” comparing other books on that rank lets me think “ok, it was good – but I enjoyed this book much more”

    That does leave both (for us) 5 stars and 0.5 stars rarely used… but I think that’s a good thing. Because it means those books are either REALLY ASTONISHINGLY GOOD or absolutely MIND BOGGLINGLY AWFUL

  3. Meoskop

    Love that piece by Tressie – I learned the value of the silk shell early and worked it until I reached a level where I don’t need it. At a certain echelon you can flip back to your former culture because it reads as authenticity. (White wealth culture) that’s why you see “homeless looking” people loading Bentleys up at
    Whole Foods. They’ve traded respectability for realness politics. The code keeps changing but the gatekeeping never quits.

  4. Laura Vivanco

    “Interesting comments about not defending the genre and instead treating it like it can withstand criticism like anything worth studying.”

    I think it probably depends on the context. My feeling, based on my experience of submitting an article on romance to a journal about popular culture (rather than one specifically about romance) is that we do sometimes have to defend it. I was specifically asked to include quotes from Radway and Modleski and if I’d not engaged with critics of the genre, I’d have been seen as deficient in my grasp of the secondary literature.

    I also think that some of the criticisms can make for interesting starting points for more nuanced analysis, and although that can come across as a “defence” it’s a normal part of the way in which academics engage with other academics’ ideas.

  5. Merrian

    @Laura Vivanco: This reminds me of one of the recent Salon articles who referred only to Radway and didn’t consider any of the current scholarship; it was a ‘hater’s want to hate’ moment for me.

    I also found it interesting to be a romance reader along with other readers attending the one day academic conference held alongside Romance Writer’s of Australia 2013. The keynote presentation was responded to tensely by the romance readers in the Q&A. Titled ’40 years of feminists reading romance’ the keynote focused on the work of Lillian Robinson who wrote in 1978 about the political possibilities of analyzing the popular within feminist criticism. Robinson presents a way of reflecting on how women may use the materials of society to make their lives. In lots of ways that seemed to me (via this presentation) be more open to possibility than Radway. The sticking point for the crowd was the focus on romance in the 70s/80s. The speaker did this because she wanted to reflect on the environment stimulating Robinson’s thinking. My understanding of the spoken responses from the non-academics in the audience is that there is a felt perception that by focussing on that time period ad infinitum, feminist criticism is actively maintaining a barrier that desires to contain and constrain the genre and denigrates the women who read it.

  6. Laura Vivanco

    @Merrian: If that’s the Lillian S. Robinson who wrote Sex, Class and Culture then she had some really scathing things to say about Georgette Heyer (whom she compared extremely unfavourably to Jane Austen).

    “The speaker did this because she wanted to reflect on the environment stimulating Robinson’s thinking.”

    I wonder if this has something to do with finding “hooks” for analysis/investigation and also with providing defensible reasons for one’s selection of primary texts. I don’t know what that academic’s primary area of research is, but it might not be romance, so she might only be interested in romance because of what it can tell her about something else.

    Anyway, given romance’s low status and the small number of potential academic readers you’ll have if you publish purely about romance, if you are a fledgling romance scholar and you want to get tenure/have a career, you’re probably going to have to link your discussion to something other than romances (which is probably at least partly why romance is so often discussed in the context of sex, women readers and feminism).

    Re the selection of texts, since we don’t have a “canon” of texts which are recognised as good and have been read by the majority of romance readers, it’s quite difficult to justify writing literary criticism of individual romance novels (and it would be difficult to find somewhere to publish it other than JPRS). The recent Princeton symposium was maybe trying to create a sort of canon by focusing on authors.