Saturday, January 10, 2009

In Which I Sound Pretentious. Again.

I'm in the January Blahs, and so I've started reading genre fiction. A lot of genre fiction. I've picked up the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, as well as a batch of books by Jennifer Crusie. Because nothing gets you through the slow times like a fast paced genre novel.

And it's kind of amazing how really plot driven these are. I mean, finding dead bodies in your freezer, someone torching your house, or getting hit hard enough to break bones--doesn't even slow these women down. It's like the dialogue could be nothing but numerous repitions of "Oh no! Oh well." And as they never slow down, I can't either--I find myself unable to do much of anything until I've finished the book and found out who the embezzler/murderer/Mr. Right is.

And it's in these sort of "chick lit" stories that I've noticed something. In at least three of these books I've read recently, good sex is used as a metaphor for the awakening of the personality. Crusie is especially noticeable in doing this. Her heroines are married or engaged (or living with) nice, dull, safe men, and they have nice, dull, safe sex. Something comes along and throws a "bad boy" type into her life, and she sleeps with him, and realizes that her life is boring and she wants more.

Now, a hundred years ago--I'm thinking Kate Chopin here--the novel "The Awakening" was about how a women became dissatisfied with her safe and dull life, and her realization was a metaphor for a sexual awakening that marked her new life. Nowdays, the novel you buy in the rack at the grocery check-out line has perfectly reversed that. Is that how our society has changed? Or is it just the result of not-very-good writing?

I don't know, but it struck me. Of course, since these are genre, the "bad boys" aren't really all that bad, and they end up domesticated and marrying the heroine, which has to be reversionist, doesn't it?

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