BOOKMARKED is the name of our journal, but since not everyone is on Twitter and not everyone on Twitter likes, this is an adhoc round-up on the blog highlighting links and news that might be of interest.

Free copies of Lick by Kylie Scott

If you’re in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, look out for free copies of Kylie Scott’s rockstar romance Lick, which Pan Macmillan is giving out for free to lucky readers. According to Twitter, here’s where you need to be: Pitt St (Sydney); Flinders Station (Melbourne); or the corner of Edward and Queen Sts (Brisbane). Look for the shirtless men with books!

Romance feminism

On The Drum, author Susan Bennett goes on a bit of a rant on, from what I can gather, Mama Mia, pop feminism, cleo and ‘penny dreadful romance novels’ (via @BronwynParry). Someone needs to tell Bennett that there are plenty of feminists who read romance fiction. Here’s my response to the article, which I submitted as a comment:

‘the genre romance novel, in which an inevitably rich and powerful hero elevates the heroine to her rightful, special place by his side.’

I’m not sure where Susan Bennett gets the idea that all romance novels are the same, or that all romance fiction plots follow this trope. As with feminism, there is a broad range of stories told by romance fiction, some more subversive than others, some more problematic than others. It may be surprising for non-romance readers to know that discussions around feminism and romance novels are happening online all the time, and the only reason I can think of that none of this is mentioned in this article is that the author chose to stigmatise a group of readers without knowing anything about what they read and why they read it.

Between Susan Bennett’s uninformed rant and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s considered response to Jennifer Byrne (Jennifer Byrne Presents, 24/08/2010) on why Mills and Boon books can be read as feminist texts, I know which opinion holds more sway for me.

Book shopping

Booktopia and Harlequin are running a contest to win high tea in Sydney with Rachael Johns (via @ToryCrabtree). Pre-order her new book, Outback Blaze, for a chance to win. Click here for more details. I talk about this book in the May Romance Buzz, and it features an annual event called the Undie Run. It’s basically what you’re imagining. :)

The Bookseller reports that Bloomsbury has launched a ‘clean teen’ romance line called If Only, featuring stories of teens falling for ‘someone they shouldn’t’. I wonder if this will include gay couples. I guess clean romance would be fun. I hope these poor teens are allowed to get to first base at least. The first two titles come out next month:

  • Fool Me Twice by Mandy Hubbard (Booktopia | Amazon) — Second chance romance with a serving of amnesia
  • Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae (Booktopia | Amazon) — Love triangle in Rome

How (some) female teens relate to books they read

I wish I’d kept a book diary when I was younger so I could compare it to this (very limited) survey of female teen readers, which asks if they’re seeing themselves reflected in what they read (via @RebeccaSchinsky). The selected responses make for interesting reading. I note that a lot of readers liked love stories, but a number also said they wanted to see fewer romance. The diversity question was also interesting, with a lot of readers looking for more athletic heroines.

Realism, literary fiction and genre

A tweet from @Text_Publishing led me to this two-part interview with Lincoln Michel on Plougshares (Part 1, Part 2). The discussion is around the concept of realism as applied to literary fiction (and, conversely, as complaint against genre fiction). Michel talks about why this is problematic. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

I tend to think [“realism”] is an ill-defined term…and it spawns some of the worst criticism. “It didn’t feel realistic!” is the go-to complaint for everyone from Amazon reviewers to undergrad workshoppers who didn’t bother to understand what a text was trying to do.

I think my main frustration is about our culture’s understanding and discussion of fiction… If you wrote a story about vacuum-pigs, you’d get comments like, “What is the vacuum-pig satirizing? What does the tower of sinks represent? I don’t get it!”

Speaking very generally, I think that both English and creative writing ignore “aesthetics” to a surprising degree. We are taught to read for political messages or cultural context, but we aren’t taught to examine the aesthetic experience of fiction.

I’m not someone who believes that genre is purely some fake marketing thing. Genre traditions and lineage are vital and important.

I think we should be encouraging more ways to group literature and more ways to see how authors are in conversation with each other than just what self they are placed on at a bookstore.

Art can and should do a million things. But speaking purely for my own tastes, I want art that makes the world seem more unreal. I want fiction that can crumble the world and build it back into something new.

What do you think?

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