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When a man tries to write like a woman... - Elf M. Sternberg
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When a man tries to write like a woman...
I stopped by Barnes & Noble yesterday with the kids while waiting for Omaha to finish her one moment of Memorial Day shopping. We wandered the shelves without intent when a cover caught my eye. It was in the Romance section, and after scanning through it quickly I came to the conclusion that the writer must have been a man.

The cover was of a buff male torso, from the shoulders to the knees, completely naked but for a towel strategically draped in an arc across one thigh. The towel's bend rose thickly over that thigh as if to suggest the towel was hiding a large, uh, salami. (What is it with romance novels and dick size recently? At least three I've read in the past couple of months have obsessed on it as a major detail.) I know authors have no control over cover art, but that ridiculous.

The title of the thing was "Wild Beasts" or something like that, and according to the back cover it was the story of Anton, Stefan, Keitra, and Xanithra, four werewolves trying to survive and find love in modern New York. It was trashy and only adequately written, but what really made me boggle was the very last line. The last scene is a sex scene written in a painfully heterosexual style but with a gay eye: the descriptions of Stefan's equipment and Anton's lean body are rich and detailed, while the women are given the simple requirements of tits and ass, but when the foursome gets down to actual in&out, the men are opposite each other with the women between them, kissing and petting at each other while the men are kept far apart.

And then finally the last line. This made me wince: "Stefan and Anton collapsed, their women between them, warm in the security of the pack."

It reminded me of Heinlein: "Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."

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Comments
sirfox From: sirfox Date: May 30th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's been interesting. Ever since Laurell K. Hamilton got popular with her Anita Blake series, (and ever since that series started to be a lot more sex than story... *sigh*) there's been an absolute GLUT of werewolf/vampire horror/fantasy/mystery/romance/smut/bodice-ripping etc. a bit of it is good. Most of it's crap. The trouble is, telling the difference is rather difficult, and i've yet to find any correlation between reader reviews, and my own opinions on a particular book in that genre.
mundens From: mundens Date: May 30th, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually I don't think it's just LKH that's responsible.

There has been a boom in the fantasy genre over the last few years and it's been creeping into all mainstream genres. Its no longer a ghettoized concept.

Look at how many TV Shows there are now with fantasy themes, even if only slightly, like "Medium", "Bones", "True Calling", "Lost", "Charmed", etc. Even "The Sentinel" has fantasy elements.

It's not surpring the trend is reflected just as much in bodice rippers and smut as it is in the mainstream novel best seller list.
mundens From: mundens Date: May 30th, 2006 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm really not sure from that description and line why you think it's a man writing or why that line makes you wince.

I know a very strong woman (a Domme) who I suspect would be quite happy writing a line like that, because she isn't afraid to admit that even the strongest like warmth and security every now and then. She enjoys being warm and snuggly between two guys and if there was a woman in there with her, it'd be a bonus for her.

Our poly 'family' often likens iself to a wolf pack as well. Mainly it's all for fun, but there's an element of truth in it, we're too small to be a tribe, and we have a pack mentality when it comes to certain things, like threats to members of the pack, and whether others can join the pack.

Perhaps it's the "their women" bit that you don't like, but even subs are often allowed to claim that sort of textual ownershp over "their tops", so in the context of the line I don't see that it's sexist.

I suppose the difference may just be that you've read the whole book and I've only read the last line and your synopsis.
lisakit From: lisakit Date: May 31st, 2006 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)
There are a number of similar books that my housemate (a true officianado of this subgenre) has been introducing me to. Most of her suggestions I find quite good and the ones I don't are merely a matter of taste, not writing skill. I'll jot down a list of titles next time I'm browsing her books. You may enjoy some of them better than what you've reviewed for us recently.
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