Friday, May 14, 2010

FFB: Romances That Dare Not Speak...: Kate Wilhelm, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Maggie Gee, Jack Finney, Richard Matheson, Joanna Russ, et al.










Copy forthcoming, and already late...but I've been reading romance fiction starting certainly no later than Jack Finney's "The Love Letter" (collected in the Finney volume above), and romance plays an important role in much fiction aimed at men as well as women...but these novels are, in whole or in part, romances in the sense of being primarily or significantly about the relationships at the center of them...but no one dare call them by that name (except perhaps the Matheson and the Finney), as they don't actually follow the Strictures of commercial romance publishing.

If I'd ever gotten very far with John Updike's Couples, it might be here, too. None of these has the cover from the editions I have, except the blurry Listen, Listen image (which includes "The Winter Beach," the novella from Redbook later expanded to novel length as Welcome, Chaos).

So...why are they romances? Well, On Strike Against God is in large part a contemporary mimetic analog of one of the threads of Russ's The Female Man, dealing with a mature woman trying to decide if she can, ethically, indulge her desire for an affair with a much younger woman; Solstice, the first Oates novel I read, is also a lesbian romance albeit a far less cheerful one (we are talking Oates, here). Wilhelm's novella and novel both, as do many Wilhelm works, mixes tendencies from all sorts of fiction, with a protagonist in both versions here who is beguiled by the kind of condescending, yet dashing, man of action who tends to Learn Better in commerially-tailored romance fiction. The Gee is about the end of the affair (hey, where's Graham Green here?) and is arrayed cleverly, broken into three sections and multiple chapters within...while Lady Oracle touches on metafiction (if not as much as Surfacing), while being about a romance-fiction writer who finds herself in a mildly relevant situation.

Still haven't seen the tv film from "The Love Letter" and haven't sat still for the film from Bid Time Return.

For less tardy Friday "Forgotten" Books, please see the running log at George Kelley's website.

Two bonus "repurposing" packages...Conjure Wife and O.G. (original gothic) Northanger Abbey offered to the Victoria Holt audience...wonder how they did in such new bottles? (The Austen courtesy Kate Laity's blog):



Sadly, the brilliant Diane and Leo Dillon cover for The Crystal Crow, iirc, by Joan Aiken, a book a bit more in the tradition of Du Maurier's Rebecca, seems to be eluding me (no longer, please see below)...as publisher Ace Books used to note, they were the First in Gothics of the sort that resurged in the '60s, and were apparently the inventors of the cover format with a woman in foreground, vaguely sinister man in background, and mansion or castle with one brightly lit window in further background...

4 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've read some of these. Now off. Take care of yourself.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! You too, in those dens of iniquity such as Amsterdam and Paris...

I can recommend them all.

K. A. Laity said...

This is a fabulous write up and I'm sorry I didn't see it until now. My excuse, madness (as usual). The Russ especially, but I haven't read enough Kate Wilhelm and I must remedy that (hmmm, wonder how much the British Library has -- surely everything, right?).

Take care!

Todd Mason said...

Well, Wilhelm's British publisher did "correct" THE KILLER THING's title to THE KILLING THING...so, just maybe so...These days I steer everyone to DEATH QUALIFIED to try Wilhelm, but among her sly takes on romance-fiction tropes, I'd still go with WELCOME, CHAOS and "The Winter Beach"...

wv: weeptri (and tri and tri)