Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More ERWA Fans

I've said before that I'm glad to be a member of the Erotica Readers & Writers Association. It's a collective of writers and fans of erotica, which this novel has become by default. Again, I've said this before: I never set out to write erotica, I thought Beyond You & Me was literary fiction with good sex scenes. Other ERWA members that weren't mentioned then, or who have become fans since include:

Cyan's Stories. Another erotica writer who is publishing her work on-line, Cyan has both a free section and a paid section where for a very reasonable $10 you can read more of her well-written, intelligent erotica. Not the "cum and thrust" variety with explicit detail, but the deeply arousing suggestive erotica.

An exciting mix of erudition and sex-appeal is Valentine Bonnaire. She has both a blog and a web domaine Velvet Babe. The writing is lush, quirky and I'm reminded of Anais Nin. It's a little like sitting down with a sexy older woman who has allure and experience to reel in those who capture her interest.

Another is Jude Mason. Jude's blog is personal in nature, and is new, but it's another chance to see a writer's mind at work. Keep a watch on this as it grows.

Finally, while not a member of ERWA, I don't want to overlook The Holiday Life. For a novel about a bisexual woman, it's easy to see the "fit" with a site about a bisexual man. There is both intelligent writing and a decidedly fascinating spin on things. For example, his birthday fantasy to watch another man make love to his wife, while conventional, is so well-expressed and singular in point-of-view as to rise above the cliched conceit (probably because it's real and not some "Letters to Penthouse" hack writing. I have used an interview template from Clayton to profile all three main characters of the novel, so for that alone I'd review his very erudite and interesting site.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chapter Five (part 4)

Literary theory is pretty ephemeral on the surface, but it's got me thinking about words and how they're used. For example, I'm obsessed with politics, I try to watch the political conventions and I follow the news most nights on TV. Politics is nothing but confusing rhetoric, lies and inflated claims, yet we find ways to sort it all out and make choices, commitments, even fight revolutions. That's all very grand. On a more practical, mundane level, understanding that words don't necessarily mean what they seem to mean cuts down the pompous and arrogant people I have to deal with to a more manageable size.

"Would you like a cup of reality with your puffery?"

As bad as the academics are, it's our future, whether I like it or not, though news from the job market outside Mother Yale is none too encouraging. The need for new doctors of philosophy isn't quite as pressing as new doctors for the projects of the inner cities. I have to keep P.'s spirits up while at the same time juggling my own hopes of resuming life after he's finished. He gets down when the news is bad; it's my job as the faculty-wife-to-be to give him support.

"We gotta stick together, Cassie," he tells me. "I'd be lost without you."

When he's done here, I can go back and finish my own degree and become something besides a secretary.
(later that evening)
I looked back over the last few pages, and they're so fucking dry! I can write down our conversations, but that doesn't mean I've captured the same excitement and energy as when we talked! My God, what a stimulant good conversation can be! It's intellectual heroin mainlined right into the arteries— not to mention occasionally an aphrodisiac. I just don't know how I can record the flash and sparks of our three-way conversations, even if I remember like they happened yesterday.

"A lot of people—me included— think Deconstruction is simply taking something apart." I'd seen P. out of the corner of my eye strolling into the kitchen where S. and I were joking about Ellen, so I quickly shifted to a topic more "dignified." P. leaned against the doorjamb between the kitchen and the living room, and I quietly shut off the Selectric, moving into the living room and lighting a half-dozen candles I'd put there over the past few weeks to make our "homework" sessions less work and more homey. Like the other times, I sat on the carpet leaning against the couch with S. perpendicular to me, again with his head in my lap while P. led the discussion from a chair opposite us like the good professor he'll be someday.

"Deconstruction undercuts our assumption that words are connected to an actual thing in the real world. 'There's nothing outside the text' is Derrida's famous dictum."

"Deconstruction's just one step away from nihilism," S. looked dejected at his own point, "an immoral and dangerous way of looking at the world view."

P. looked annoyed, and brushed this reservation off with a sweep of his big hands.

"Words are the most powerful weapon in the world. Historians like you should be paying more attention. I'm just a literary critic, but I can see that crying about the problem won't make it otherwise."

to be continued

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Philly Things

Long-time fans of Beyond You & Me know that Cassie is from Philadelphia. In fact, she didn't leave it until she married P. and went first to California, and later to Yale. Despite its occasionally provincial character and her own ambivalence about its smother-love, Cassie is at her core a Philly girl. A South Philly girl to be exact. South Philadelphia is a small town within a big city, once mostly settled by Italian and Jewish immigrants, but today a rainbow of colors and cultures. In fact, the famous "Ninth Street Italian Market" sits now in a sea of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants and groceries, much like New York's Little Italy has been nearly swallowed up by Chinatown. So today's post is about things Philadelphian.

An early fan of Beyond You & Me is Philly Future. The site is about everything Philadelphia, and a good place to get to know this charming city that is too often overshadowed by New York. Philly's museums are more human in size (my favorite is the University of Pennsylvania with its outstanding collection of Babylonian art).

Another old fan (who has been overlooked until now) is Bella Vista Social Club. The denizens of this blog are graduates of St. Maria Goretti High School in Philadelphia; Cassie went to South Philadelphia High School, and occasionally clashed with the "Goretti Gorillas" who would, she told me, hike up their Catholic school uniforms to miniskirt lengths before and after class. I'm stumped at how to characterize this fun, rollicking mix of politics, Philly insider stuff and personal matters. Whatever you call it, have a visit to the club. And for those of us who weren't lucky enough to be born Italian, social clubs are often where the Mafiosi hang out!

Girlfiend is not only from Philly, but stone hilarious, at least if you like your comedy derisive and in-your-face. Not Girl Friend, you read it right the first time: Girl Fiend. As in fiendishly funny and wry. It's a personal bout with the world, and I'm not sure whether the world can take her on. Always biting, never dull, she's unique in her observations about life, people, Boyfiend, pregnancy, and therapy. Look out, here she comes!

A newer fan is Blankbaby. I'm stumped to characterize this strange, touching slice of things Philadelphia and not. Want to know how the author got the confirmation name "Fabian"? Maybe you're not Catholic and wonder what a confirmation name is and why he would have one. Ever speculated about HDTV or cheesy lines of dialog in movies? How about "Doctor, why couldn't you save her?" "Because there are no injections against the Devil"? To find out which movie this execrable line is from, go to Blankbaby.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

CHAPTER 5 (part 3)

One of the few perks working at Yale is auditing classes. I took two years of German when we got here— P.'s major in college, I know that sounds sorta dependent on him, but he's been my teacher and guide, so it seemed "right." I still sometimes think about changing the world with ideas— it's what I always thought my life would be about. I wanted to be a doctor growing up. All THAT changed when I got a C in algebra. I read a lot (still do), including all the Tom Swift books, so I used to think I'd save the planet or discover a cure for cancer, something with real meaning. Whether protesting the war, working in a soup kitchen at my church, even marrying a smart guy like P., I planned on being more than just the smart guy's wife putting him through college.

I talked S. into taking Lit Y with me, and naturally, when he found out P. was in Comp Lit, he started timing his visits to our apartment so as to run into him instead of avoiding him. That sounds kinda conspiratorial, as if we had something to hide, I don't mean it in that way. S. and I didn't do a thing when P. wasn't home I'd have to justify to my mom. S. was intimidated by my husband, as many people are: he's six feet three inches tall, physically imposing, too, not just tall. His hazel eyes have a piercing intensity which still makes me feel when we get into heated discussions like I'm a little girl trying to argue with her father. It's funny, but after five years of our being married, I still want his approval, and cannot abide his disappointment in anything I wear or do. His face is long and angular, with prominent eyebrows that a girlfriend in Philly described to me (with an approving nod) as "cave man" features. She also said his gaze made her uncomfortable, "it's as if he can see right through my clothes." He is sexy in a rough-hewn sort of way, yet very sensitive and caring— reminds me of Laurence Olivier as Heathcliffe in "Wuthering Heights." No wimp in the sack I'm glad to say. And thank God, too, I'm a girl with a lot of sexual energy. Naturally, those are things about him most people don't know— they only see the tall guy with bushy hair and eyebrows who looks like he could hurt them if he wanted to (and probably would, if they did something to bring out his wrath).

Anyway, that's how our three-way friendship began: talking books and literary theory. When I confessed one night both S. and I were floundering in all the lit crit terminology and mumbo-jumbo, P. sat down at the kitchen table with the two of us and started explaining things, professor to students.

"You'll get more out of de Man in small groups or even individually. Make sure you attend his office hours as often as possible. In class he's usually all business, but in small groups or when we talk in private, he's funny and shockingly blunt. Even to the point of putting down other critics and professors here at Yale. But then he understands how most profs are just performance artists with tenure. It's one reason he makes the establishment nervous."

One thing about P. I've always admired is he's unafraid of anyone, and speaks his mind whenever he feels like it, so it looked like a good fit having de Man for his mentor. He'll ask impertinent, probing questions at lectures, or poke holes in the arguments of even top critics. He has a superior air which puts off most of his fellow grad students, but he needs it: arrogance is a necessary armor in the world of lit crit. For one thing, the competition for jobs is ruthless outside the ivory tower of Bingham Hall where the Comp Lit department lives— it's literally in a tower, the top floor of a creaky, spooky old Victorian cupola perched on one of the freshman dorms that surround Old Campus. A really cool place with its own tiny library that smells like ancient leather chairs and musty stored-up energy, it's the place I head to when the weather's too cold to sit outside in my courtyard, reading or looking through the old books, some dating back to the 1800s.

It's the only thing I like about the Comp Lit department. The people are, well, less than nice to me. Almost everyone, student or professor, is a snob or a bore or both. I suppose you can say that about most of the people at Yale. I sorta have this love-hate relationship with the place, wanting to be accepted, yet never fitting in. I remember riding up in the tiny two-person elevator that connects the Comp Lit department to the ground with Professor Hartman. He's another one of the bigwigs. Didn't say a thing for most of the ride— probably figured I was an undergrad living on the lower floors, which are all dorm rooms for freshmen. When I didn't get off at one of those other floors, he realized we were both going to the Ivory Tower. I guess he figured he'd better say something.

"How's life?" What kind of question is that? I wanted to laugh, but I just smiled at him.

"Fine," I lied.

The elevator stopped, he pushed open the door and disappeared into his office like the white rabbit down its hole.

to be continued