Clare London (clarelondon) wrote,
Clare London

JAN 05: Z A Maxfield ponders Romance...

Welcome today to Z A Maxfield, masquerading here on Live Journal as zamaxfield, keeping us all amused and challenged with her Friday Is Casual Sex Day posts and recently sharing some fabulous dance/tango video clips.

Oh, and did I mention she's also a fabulous AUTHOR?!!!
She stormed into the 2008 publishing calendar with Crossing Borders, a gorgeous, witty and sexy story of the adorable Tristan and delicious Officer Michael, the man who wants him and has waited, patiently...until Tristan crashes into his life regardless.
(yes, I loved it, yes I have a SIGNED COPY hurrah!).

She's followed that up with The Long Way Home and just this last month, St Nachos.

Go to her LJ or website for all details.! She's returning to a blog post she made in 2008, chatting about her discovery and love of the Romance genre - from 'traditional' to today's many alternative versions.

In the end, I wonder if we could generate a discussion of the "Straight to Gay" plot, because I think it's a cherished concept, fallen out of favor, of genderless and borderless and limitless love, and that I love it, even though I don't believe it, anymore than I believe that the girl in the cinders will find her prince and live happily ever after or that true love's first kiss can wake up the dead. But I like those stories too...

Agree? Challenge? Do you love Romance, whatever the weather?
Here's ZAM - the Passionate Amateur (?!).

The Passionate Amateur...
Mar. 29th, 2008 at 8:06 AM

Hi everyone,

Blogging on my own website today, cause I was feeling feisty yesterday and snapped around at people. I think I woke up kind of spoiling for an argument. (hence the whole wonderment thing.)
**Edit 1/04/09. My argument on this particular day seemed to be about the Straight To Gay story, why we love them, hate them, and love to hate them, or something, I’m not sure about anything I was thinking that day except I had a lot of energy and I never shut up.**

I have to say that I've been surprised lately to see the narrow labeling that goes on with regard to genre fiction, and that I'm not conversant with it yet. The next online class I'm taking, having finished the one I'm taking now, is Romance Writing, and I suspect that the genre will be defined for me in no uncertain terms. I'm also joining RWA, so I suspect that I'll be more familiar with the rules and regs of Romance, as a genre as time goes by.

In the meantime, I speak from the point of view of the passionate amateur, really, the otaku, which I really am, of romantic literature. I can remember quite clearly the elementary school library where Miss Kaplan, the librarian, tried to find books for me because, she said, for someone with my reading level and vocabulary I didn't read nearly enough.

She looked at me, and then around, as though she were hooking me up with a new designer drug, and handed me a copy of a book called 'An Innocent Wayfaring." And the rest, as they say, is historical Romance.

So thus began my long descent into romantic literature. And here I refer to 'the love story', which is not to say, 'Love Story', because, well really, even at the time when people were coming sobbing out of that dang movie I thought, oh dear heaven will you just DIE already. Where was I. Oh.

Miss Kaplan gave me 'An Innocent Wayfaring' by Marchette Gaylord Chute, and I quite literally, or maybe figuratively, but I think it was literally, fell in love. With an entire genre of books. And for those of you paying attention, it has a MBHEA ending. Might be happily ever after.

For the record, my reading is not confined to this, nor are all the books I read covered by half-naked women running from the ruins of old castles. They aren't all (but include) bodice rippers; they are gothic, contemporary, historical, inspirational, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. They are genre and literary, and hopefully a hybrid of the two, because finding a pearl among the dross is what it's all about for me.

And it's not like I haven't done a little study about this, because as a French major I quickly realized that our western idea of romantic fiction has it's inception in the French concept of chivalry, the code of knightly conduct debated, beginning around, I think, the twelfth century (here I oversimplify) in the courts of the daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who were, essentially, desperate housewives with nothing more to do (with their brains) than change clothes sixteen times a day and sew. It's not like I'm a literary scholar, remember the whole passionate amateur thingie.

Anyway, in those stories, the highest attainable goal was to love someone so passionately and selflessly that they never find out about it. Perhaps you get to die in the service of that love. That's like the chivalric equivalent of hitting the love lotto. She may or may not know it but you died for her. Okay. Maybe that's not my best case scenario but it works, and it has its echoes in a lot of the really awesome tearjerkers of today.

Some that come to mind are The Hunchback of Notre Dame, A Tale of Two Cities, and I could make a pretty strong case for an echo of the same refrain in Brokeback Mountain but I no longer drink and get pugnacious in pubs.

Those stalwart heroes, who loved distantly and beyond measure, didn't get a lot of action in the early days of Romance, I think, and I always feel determined to make it up to them.

Hence, the passionate part of my passionate amateur status. Anyone who is a passionate or scholarly professional can feel free to weigh in and set me straight. I'm going to go write my pretty boy stories and I'll come back to the changes wrought by free love and its eventual ghettoization of the love story behind the velvety yet impenetrable walls of the category romance and the HEA/HFN later. It's not like we don't all know this. I just love talking about it.

Then I think stuff happened that changed the love story. Oh sure, yeah, the invention of the printing press and the reformation, yeah. More literacy. But then, and more importantly (to the love story) I think people actually started thinking about loving each other. Maybe it was more like marry for love, or at least, toy with that concept. I mean, if you can never have an HEA because your sacred ladybits (Yes, I am referring to them here, and they belong, actually to Lisabea, not her bits, but her term) are being sold as a commodity to the highest bidder... well. That's gotta suck. And imagine, you've come FACTORY SEALED, and anyone who feels they need documentation on this can just have someone check this out... Well. Suckage increases tenfold. There's some sort of apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette dressing like a shepherdess and going to a kind of rural folly to get away from it all because a shepherdess is a much freer woman than a noble. Of course she is. A noble woman is a commodity.
**Edit, 1/4/09. It was pointed out to me later that the Marie Antoinette thing is an urban legend**

So, anyway, the earliest love story I ever read was Tristan and Isolde. It was actually given to me by the same librarian who lured me into reading. It was a kid version of the tale, but still came complete with that awful ending. Black sails, white sails, the appearance of the lying little bimbette who tells Tristan his lover isn't coming... Oy.

But since then I've read, like, six different versions and had the exquisite privilege of sitting through the OPERA(!) complete with set design by Maurice Sendak. There's this quirky little thing that happens, the versions change depending on who tells them and when they're told. In one, Tristan and Isolde fall in love. Bang, the coup de foudre. Unstoppable, but voluntary. In another, Isolde unwittingly drugs him, and bang... yada, yada. In the third, she drugs him on purpose, (the oldest story, literally, in the book. Here, have an apple.)

I'm not Joseph Campbell, but I'll bet I can put these in chronological order.

When ladybits were sacred, (oh, Lisabea, I think you rock, I never would have put this together without you) the fact that women actually came Factory Sealed For Your Protection was a pretty big frigging deal. (Still is, I know, but not in love stories, per se, so much.) Like SACRED. Compared to the holy grail. The chalice. The font from which life springs. All these metaphors aside, when I first came across virgin/whore angst, it was called Madonna/whore angst, but now, who uses that term anymore? More sacred than simply a virgin, we're talking about THE Virgin. It ties in with the sacred mother, the goddess and guys, there isn't a male equivalent, (someone, prove me wrong, I'm okay with that.)

And no woman from the period of time Tristan und Isolde was being circulated is going to cop to the a) voluntary participation in anything that takes her out of play as a commodity, and b) enjoying or condoning the outcome of such an act.

And I think, although I can't say for sure, and I'm sure somebody out there really knows this, that there's probably a whole rash of stories from that time that start with Events Entirely Outside Of My Control, (though heaven knows I tried) right up til today. That angle finds its way into the contemporary as love-at-first-rape, which, thank heavens, I hardly ever see anymore.

Except in M/M... Like Yaoi, especially. But in M/M, it isn't about the sacred so much as it's about innocence lost, and experiencing something you cannot admit to experiencing without the Damned Good Excuse, of Events Entirely Outside Of My Control.

Maybe what we're seeing in Yaoi and M/M, the straight to gay controversy, is just the Tristan and Isolde of another kind of love story all together. Something kind of borderless and bitless. Something next.

Nobody else on the planet cares about this stuff, but if you do, join in the fun.

C'est Moi, putting the fun back into functionally illiterate, one word at a time.


Follow this month with Clare (yes, it's all about the MEEEE...):

Jan 01 : the Cheeky Cherubs welcome us to 2009 with a pithy verse or two and the threat of piercings...
Jan 02 : sweet, sexy fiction from lilzazu, all about the perennially tricky problem of a sticky shift...
Jan 03 : excellent editing tips for all authors who ever wondered whether to be cruel to be kind to their prose, hosted by jolilightner...
Jan 04 : Clare pimps the fabulous I DO anthology, now available in ebook and all proceeds to Lambda...
Tags: authors, blog, blog month, m/m world, mlr, romance
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.