Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

“Lout sex, oh, yeah! …” – A Viking Porno May 27, 2010

The most awesome tea mug in the universe - Sarah and I are wearing Viking hats her Grandparents sent. Awesome - I know.

But to the title of this post. That is an actual (italicized) quote from the book:

“Lout sex, oh, yeah! …” p.187

Most of the stuff I read in this novel you really can’t make up. I need a helpful cup of tea. I know in the first text I talked a lot about it reading like fanfiction and what contributed to that. So – an analogy: the previous text is to fanfiction what Viking in Love is to porn.

Yep it’s the sex post – but also a dialect post in disguise. Sure, we’ve got the random use of different period phrases – and I’d say used better, in fact, in this novel. At the end, the author gives a note to the reader explaining why she chose the period and her ties to it (her family was descending from Vikings). Yesterday, I talk a lot about period in the post with my mom and how it’s not so much period-correctness that these novels use – it’s the period itself that makes the books … sexy, I guess.

Oh – and more on that author’s note – my favorite quote is her opening line:

“I hope you liked what I call my medieval version of the Dixie Chicks song video, ‘Good-Earl.'” p.360

You can find that video and song here. Sure enough, the actual ‘plot’ of the novel is summed up in that video. Viking princesses kill the husband of one of their sisters because he’s abusive. It all gets sort of brushed over in the end, though – again convenience. But I applaud Hill for making this note to the reader. It was interesting for me to read why she chose the period, how versed she may be in it and what not.

But then – we’re not looking for period accuracy anymore. That’s probably why I found the note so intriguing – it was a period piece with a period she felt connected to – maybe that’s why the dialect wasn’t totally butchered and why there was a handy-dandy though I never used it glossary in the back of terms relevant to the novel.

So – for period correctness in a romantic novel – I’m applauding Hill. Sure, there’s no bibliography and not the usual things i look for, but we’re given more than what’s to be expected. And I think that’s pretty cool for a Viking Porno.

Clap, damn you! Clap!

You know, I think I could live off of tea. The cup I just made is positively divine and makes me question coffee drinkers – is it worth it without whiskey and Baileys or one or the other?

But moving on. The dialect post in disguise. I don’t know if I can do this but I’m going to change the word dialect to dialogue. There’s a difference obviously – dialect is – just quickly – accent, inflections, what I’ve been talking a lot about. Dialogue is a conversation.

This past school year I was introduced to Bakhtinian literary theory (and I just remembered why I woke up in a panic – I dreamt my computer had burned in a fire and I lost all of my papers from college on theory – no joke). My first exposure to it was during my independent study on Victorian Children’s literature. I had taken a very strong liking to the effects of dialogue – not just between characters (and my favorite part of writing is dialogue) but also between the text and the reader. My wonderful fantastic etc. professor gave me a copy – what I now call ‘The Purple Book’ – of Bakhtinian theory – The Dialogic Imagination.

I sometimes coddle a bottle of Jameson. I also sometimes coddle a book on Lit Theory. I also like to sleep with 'Bleak House' under my pillow. Shut up.

Before I dive into Bakhtin’s actual essay’s – I was given a great summary of his theory in my ‘Lit Theory’ class (haha, go figure). I’m stealing this quote from a recent paper – I don’t have the book as it was a print out, but I will link to it nonetheless as I do have it’s information.

“A speaker and a listener form a relationship. Language is always the product of at least two people in a dialogue, not a monologue.” – Bressler p. 45

The speaker in this case, is the text. The listener, the reader. Easy enough. So, with a text you have a dialogue between the reader and the text. Let’s follow this up with something actually from The Purple Bakhtin Book (form his essay Discourse in the Novel):

“The novel as a whole is a phenomenon multiform in style and variform in speech and voice. In it the investigator is confronted with several heterogeneous stylistic unities, often located on different linguistic levels and subject to different stylistic controls.” Bakhtin p.261

I’ll break it down into what I’m applying this theory to with Viking in Love. I set a reminder though that I’m very new to literary theory and this blog is partially a way for me to continue to explore it. If you have another application of this theory or if you think I misinterpreted it, please comment – I’m not here to be the ultimate source of knowledge – I’m still very much learning.

Okay – back to breaking it down. First – make sure you get the idea of the text and reader as a dialogue (I swear, this is going to pay off once I start addressing the novel). Now, I am going to go make myself another cup of tea, get my computer charger, and explain myself – I’m like the Doctor, sometimes. I need tea to fully regenerate.

Okay – tea fixed, cord found, and now to explain myself. We’ve seen how the novel is a multiform phenomenon in style (the mix of the contemporary with the past) and of course the varying ‘speech and voice’, which I’ve also addressed to an extent that I think is enough to dive a little into Bakhtin here. Keep all that in mind as well, of course. This leaves us with the ‘heterogeneous stylistic unities’ and within these different ‘stylistic controls.’

What I’m going to argue or … I don’t know make a claim for is this: the stylistic controls of Viking in Love are found in the language of the novel, the crude sexuality of the text that interacts with the ‘investigator’ (ie: in this case, the reader). The interaction forms a dialogue of pornography. Rather than watching it on the television, through this dialogue we are having a similar experience through the dialogue of the text to reader.

I would stop myself from touching on Mayhue in this case because her text was practically bowdlerized compared to Hill. Sure, there’s the longing and the romantic descriptions but Hill is to the blunt point. Her text’s contribution to the dialogue of reader and text is raunchy – it’s half of the porno.

The other half is supplied by the reader. While reading the text, the reader is giving the other half of the dialogue, obviously and, thus, adding to the full picture of this viking porno.

Sex scene time!

“She succumbed to the forceful domination of his kisses then and only close her eyes when he moved down her body and began to suckle at her breasts. Turns out that big breasts were not a necessity for love making. Turns out big nipples were good for something.

Ribbons of heat unfurled in her as he brought her to another of those peaking things, just by fondling her breasts and dipping his talented fingers into her woman folds. She had scarce caught her breath when he whispered: ‘Now you can look.’

With arms levered on either side of her head, he was positioned betweist her thighs, his phallus at her woman’s portal. ‘Are you ready?'” p.183

Yeah, I just cock-blocked you all, as they say – but I did it intentionally. And before I forget, there’s this great contest for worst sex scene in a novel that’s held I think every year. You can read and find information about them here.

So – the dialogue of porn. ‘His phallus at her woman’s portal’ – how is the text interacting with the reader? The text is giving a vivid play-by-play of this sex scene – the reader gets pretty much every detail – as if they were watching it on a television screen or computer monitor. It’s lit porn.

Un-cock-bocked:

“‘How would I know?’ she snapped.

Slowly he pushed himself inside her, only a little, then pulled out. Then, in a little more, then out again.

‘You are so tight,’ he grunted out. ‘So wonderfully tight.’

She could tell when he hit her maidenhead, but it only pinched a bit, and the pain was soon gone, replaced by the most amazing fullness. Sweat beading his forehead, he rocked in and out of her until he was buried to the hilt. He rested then, forehead to forehead, and asked, ‘Have I hurt you?’

‘Just a little. Do not stop.'” p.183

You’re welcome for typing all of that.

But again, look how incredibly detailed the scene is. Every moment is charted – we actually get more movement over feeling. The text wants you to picture it – sure, there’s a pinch of pain and ‘the most amazing fullness’ but the dialogue leaves a lot of that up to the reader.

The text is staging a porno on the television in your head created by the dialogue between reader and novel.

This may seem obvious and you’re probably thinking why the hell have I already written about 1500 words talking about what you already know. But i wanted to look at this through lit theory. How the text and reader create this pornographic dialogue – even if it seems obvious. Why not put it in theory terms for fun?

PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

References

Bakhtin, M.M. “Discourse in the Novel.”The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981, 259-422.

Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1994.

Hill, Sandra. Viking in Love. New York: Avon Books, 2010.

 

A Ginger Post: Part 2 May 26, 2010

You know what I just realized, sitting here writing this post at .. 10:39 pm? I still have three or four episodes of Earth 2 to watch. I bought it in September and am … slowly … working my way through it. You’d think with repeated exposure to classic Doctor Who, the series would be a breeze, but I just haven’t gotten around to finishing it.

Anyway.

Seriously – the things I watch just for the actors in them – Caroline, I am thinking about Restoration right now. And just for that:

Sometimes Gingers own bad movies ... bad horrible movies with Meg Ryan trying to put on an Irish accent ...

You’re welcome. At least RDJ isn’t looking into the camera or you’d be looking at that photo longer and remember that … disaster of a film …

Anyway, another Ginger post – short but sweet this time since there isn’t anything new to really say.

Thankfully, Viking in Love (it is KILLING me that there is a lack of an ‘A’ in front of ‘Viking’) isn’t too harsh on redheads. Breanne, our female protagonist, is of course the fiery one – but Caedmon is pretty much a walking penis (with a heart, of course) so even her temper, her strong independence, blah blah is a turn on. Oh – and so are her nipples – so many pages are devoted to her breasts and nipples it’s remarkable. I wish I had kept a tally of words in this book … 362 pages of phallus, breasts, nipples, nubs, it was like reading a porno (I promise – quotes will abound in the next post so you’ll see what I’m talking about).

But back to the red hair.

I’ve yet to get Roach’s book – as mom is helping Gram with her PT and I don’t have a key to the house to even take a walk without worrying a meth head may wander in I don’t get out much and spend most of the day reading (no, I don’t live in a bad area, there’s just a suspicious house on the corner that no one likes). But I’m continuing to note the similarities between redheads.

Again: temper. independence. no need for a man. sexuality – in Viking in Love more so.

And again: the temper is controlled. independence is maintained. they find they are in love. and they keep their sexuality (ie: screwing in a bathroom as in the previous book or screwing in the basement in this text where the CHILDREN – I kid you not – have locked them to … they use the word ‘tup’ and they do, indeed, ‘tup’).

So – simple question – why isn’t the female a brunette? A blonde? Sure, Caedmon rages about redheads once or twice – but I never stopped and thought he really hated gingers – a small dislike, mayhaps (oh, yeah, look at that – using the narrative voice there). I really hate that word … mayhaps … yuck. yech. ew.

Thing is – he just isn’t set against them. So why does Breanne have to have red hair?

I don’t expect Roach’s book to be the be all end all answer – I just want a resource with probably other resources to guide me on this matter.

The wonderful mater has mentioned taking a B&N trip this weekend so hopefully – come the next Ginger post – this book will be read (along with another I was recommended – but I’ll get to that one when I get to Structuralism later on).

I’m not copping out on this post – the lack of quotes is merely because the red hair wasn’t railed against. It was just … there. I want to know why it was there though and see if this pattern continues.

Especially in the next book – which, of course, is a secret, but I picked it out by means of it’s cover (small spoiler: there is no redhead on it).

So this doesn’t seem like a total waste – I give you more RDJ to gaze into the eyes of:

Has RDJ ever gone full ginger, man? Never go full ginger.

Like you even need a PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

Hill, Sandra. Viking in Love. New York: Avon Books, 2010.

 

The Mater and her Thoughts

Me and the Mater

Above is my insanely awesome mother struggling to stand next to me in her heels on graduation. She was DETERMINED to wear heels.

Anyway – why am I talking about my fantastic mater when I’ve just started posting on this pretty juicy book – Viking in Love?

Well – it’s because mom and I had a very interesting discussion the other night about these novels. I was sitting on the sofa reading when she made some comment about the cover or asked if I was embarrassed to have been reading some of it while waiting for Gramma to come out of surgery (which, for the curious went fine – she’s doing great and has many a pain pill to make her incredibly goofy straight into next week). I don’t remember what I said about the cover – but you can be sure it had to do with that mullet Caedmon is sporting. I do remember what I said when she asked about my reading in the hospital’s waiting room.

No. I wasn’t embarrassed. Mostly because I had been reading Villette for about two hours before I picked the Hill novel up. And also because I took out my ‘work’ with it. That is, pencil came out, notepad, too – clearly, I was taking notes. Had I not had Villette or my notes … maybe the situation would be different. I’ll have to test that one out. But hey – I just bought the third book for this blog at Walmart and went through the actual human check-out.

Moving up in the world … and down in price, I should add.

Anyway. The mater went on to tell me that when she was younger she used to read these sorts of novels, but they became too formulaic for her – the plots were the same, the characters the same. So she just stopped reading them (except for the occasional slip – which I do make fun of her for – it’s only human).

Okay – cool story, bro. Right?

She gets more interesting – promise.

After those remarks she went on to say she hated reading ‘contemporary’ novels – that is, romantic novels that were set in the present day. When she said this, I set down my book, crossed my arms on the tray table in front of me, and started grilling her.

First – I just asked: Why?

She started to tell me that she didn’t like the ‘businessman.’ Men, to her in these books, were more romantic when set in a past time period.

Again: Why?

They were more gentlemanly. There’s something more attractive about them.

I couldn’t disagree with that. I’m known for my love of a guy in 1930s tweed or a 19th century frock coat. But I’m also a ‘budding’ Victorianist and I tend to set the novels I write in the 1930s – I’ve never been attracted to the contemporary (in fact, I have trouble reading contemporary fiction itself – I’m very particular – my mater is different though – she loves biographies, true crime – contemporary stuff).

So – sexiness is made up in large part due to the past. Recalling each time I chose a novel for this blog – there were, if I recall correctly, more historical fiction than contemporary. But that’s almost expected.

Next question: What – beyond the ‘gentlemen-like’ behavior of these male characters did you like?

Mom said it was because it was just him and he had his eyes only for one girl. There was no ‘other woman’ – you knew they were made for each other from the start.

I asked what she thought about the female protagonist – I brought up Viking in Love and said that, like the previous book, I had a heroine who was independent, wanted her own land and, in this case, her own business. What about the independence?

Mom said she really didn’t think about that. And I can see why. Having finished two novels – I don’t think ‘independence’ is something that’s called into question. Mom and I did discuss the idea of taming – obviously there is the usual woman taming the man, but these books also have the man taming the woman a bit. They … let’s call it from this point on – balance each other in some way.

But she doesn’t loose her independence – she doesn’t end up – like I said before – barefoot and preggers.

The reader is satisfied with a happy ending – even if it means Breanne may not get her own shop – you know Caedmon’s going to let her carve and make things (that’s what she does by the way – she’s also good with kids – shocking, I know but this isn’t the family post).

The mater and I (mater – mother in Latin, I call her that to be obnoxious but it’s fun) have extremely different tastes in books (and in music for the most part but that’s irrelevant) but this was a great moment – she had more experience in this genre than myself so getting her opinion was insightful. Especially with Viking in Love.

It gave me a new perspective. I’m going to pay more attention to the … historicalness of the novel (not just the ways it isn’t in keeping with the period – but the way the period may enhance the novel’s formula).

As for Viking in Love, you can see this come in to play a lot. In clothing (the manipulation of how it clings to character’s bodies). In bedding (the figurative and literal meaning). In positions in society of different characters –

SIDE NOTE: I just totally beat down my uncle with my Latin skills (I’m a Latin minor – I know some stuff) – it was awesome.

– anyway, the positions and societal status of different characters – all lend somehow to this formula. Originally talking about the historical aspect of these novels, I got picky – but I’m starting to see this other side.

Breanne is a princess.

Caedmon is a … knight? I don’t know if they’re ever really clear on that.

But Breanne’s position does play a role in how Caedmon reacts to her and how the reader reacts as well – not in a ‘omg that’s not period way’ anymore – but a ‘huh, she’s a princess’ way.

I know – it’s shocking for me to be saying this. I’m so picky when it comes to period pieces but talking to mom made me see this other side. So it’s not period correct – that sucks – but the period of the book does have a reason. I’m starting to think it almost makes up for lack of a substantial plot – but that’s too big of an assumption.

But – for now – the idea of historical fiction takes on a new meaning, I think.

It’ll still irk the hell out of me though.

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Reference

Hill, Sandra. Viking in Love. New York: Avon Books, 2010.

 

Attack of the Mullet Italics! May 25, 2010

First off – I’ve finished decorating my little office space in my aunt’s room! Yay!

My temporary office space!

Two versions (that is, the same book with different illustrations) of Alice in Wonderland, my massive Norton, a book of Lear’s poems, Ebert’s Your Movie Sucks and one of Stephen Fry’s books – Moab is My Washpot – fit nicely to the left side. I’ve some of Charlotte Brontë’s and Lewis Carroll’s juvenilia under there too. On the chair you can see Villette. On the far left, most of my Lit Theory books along with some books on Dickens (I have too many to keep track – I realized this the other day, but I think I have more books on Jane Austen). On the far right, the annotated version of Alice with another Alice book. Then there’s my lovely lattice board with pictures of my friends and teachers and blah blah – same thing.

But – more importantly – onto the new book!

'Viking in Love' by Sandra Hill

Not only did I buy this just for the title and the fantastic mullet the dude on the cover is flaunting, but look at the back cover:

Summary? All it says: "What does it take to win the love of a Viking Princess?"

So, needless to say, I had not freaking clue what this book could be about. I mean, at least with Mayhue I was forewarned about the ‘Magic’ and the time travel. There’s none of that in this book (well, not intentionally) but I sort of had to just dive in.

Okay, when you open the book there is a … sort of summary. I wouldn’t call it so but I guess it suffices when the general reader is picking out this sort of book. I know I didn’t address this with Mayhue’s novel, but here’s the exact moment to mention it. On the back of her book, her summary was divided into two parts: the male and the female. So it is with this ‘summary’ – we get the female perspective, in the first person voice. And then we get the male in the same way. They don’t give us a summary – just a general idea of what is to come.

But it’s not reliable at all. I’m 200 pages in and can say that with easy certainty. Why? Because the voices we were on this page are far far far removed from what we encounter in the novel itself.

With the first book I read, I started talking about narrative voice – and I think that’s what I’m going to do with this novel. It’s especially important for this novel, I think since it is a different style from the last, and it’s also rather peculiar. The narrative takes on several of the aspects I talked about not only in narrative, but in dialect in the previous text.

So – let me break it down in parts like I did before – these are the things I noted when it came to the narrative of this particular text.

  • Crude sexuality
  • Free indirect discourse
  • Crisscrossing time
  • So many ‘What?’s written in my marginal notes I’ve lost count

First – Crude Sexuality.

To be blunt – I’m really sick of reading about the main male – Caedmon – and his penis. I am. We get some of the main female – Breanne – and her breasts (which, for the interested, are small compared with the rest of those at Caedmon’s house), but on every page there seems to be some sort of penis joke.

I’m not scandalized – hardly. No – to me it’s like bad, bland comedy. Poop jokes. It’s boring. That’s what makes me wonder what the desired effect of this tone is. Are we supposed to feel scandalized? Turned on? I know I’m uppity when it comes to the literature I read, but I, for some reason, cannot get caught up in this genre (yes, I know, I’ve only read two so far – but so far speaking …).

Here’s a few examples:

“‘Can I help it if I am a virile man?’ And dumb as dirt when it comes to keeping my cock in my breeches.

‘Methinks your virility is going to come back and bite you in the arse one of these days,’ Goeff said.” p.18

“Immediately her eyes fixed on a part of his naked body, which was displaying a powerful morning thickening, standing out like a flag-pole.” p.46

“And in that moment, they both realized that he had somehow landed betwixt her widespread thighs, and his favorite body part was planted smack dab up against his favorite woman’s part. And it was growing.” p.124

Seriously – the whole narrative has been like this. It hardly phases me to type it since I’ve been reading it for two days.

This is what I find intriguing though – the other novel, while in the same genre, didn’t have this crude sexuality throughout. Yes, when it came to the ‘sex scene’ it reached this sort of … intensity? But this whole novel has had this same type of sexuality throughout. It’s every page.

Caedmon’s penis is everywhere.

So now I feel like I’ve encountered two ends of the spectrum. A relatively tame narrative in A Highlander’s Homecoming and an out of control narrative in Viking in Love. The scale is, of course, able to be changed but for the moment – that is how I am going to view the sexuality in these books. It is almost as if Viking in Love needs no ‘sex scene’ – the pages are already ‘charged.’

Connecting to this idea of crude sexuality is the strange Free Indirect Discourse that occurs frequently within the novel. I spoke a lot about third-person limited in the Mayhue’s text. This isn’t written that way. Clearly, this third person narrator is … limited, but we don’t have so much access to any one character’s mind.

Until we get the Italics.

At first, I thought we were just hearing the internal voices of the two main characters. But that started to change when the words in Italics began to become … contemporary.

Look at the contrast:

“Mayhap I am getting the lung fever, too, if my tongue cannot control itself. Be still, tongue. Be still.” p.86

“And then the you-know what hit the medieval fan …” p.96

The first voice you hear is that of Caedmon – in italics, on the page. Whether I should call this free indirect discourse or just … discourse is up in the air. That is, it’s murky with the second voice (the second quote). That’s the voice that appears – in italics – of neither character.

Is it the narrator?

But if it is the narrator – why is time suddenly crisscrossing (enter here the third point)? There are points in the narrative where the single narrative voice does use words such as ”Tis’ and so on – so why sudden colloquialisms?

Doesn’t this throw the reader off?

Or are we supposed to get a chuckle?

After all – this is far from the only example. It pervades the book to the point where I’m confused as to how many narrators there are. One who sees into the characters mind and writes in italics and another who just tells the story? Or are they one in the same?

Or … is it just bad writing? Someone trying to be … clever?

Which leads me to the Whats.

I’ll admit. At times, I did laugh a little reading. Not because it has a strange narrative, but there are funny moments. Well – funny in that I really can’t believe any of it is plausible. This also brings back that idea of convenience – another note I made in the previous books.

Convenience.

What?

It all goes together – things need to fit into place – ridiculous things need to happen. Five Viking Princesses just have to kill the husband of one and flee to Caedmon’s even though he’s only a distant relative. And, of course, the only virgin in the group and the only redhead, becomes the love interest. And of course, for some reason, Caedmons has to protect them … or kick them out – I’m not that far yet but I think you can guess what happens.

Already though, things are starting to repeat. You’ll see more of that in further posts but in terms of narrative – there’s coincidence, there’s narrative changes, there’s strange time lapses. I don’t know if this will all mean anything in the end – but it’s nice to have them listed – it’s becoming a way to understand how these books are written. A bit of a glimpse into the formula of a romance novel.

And before I go to bed – PALATE CLEANSER! CLICK ME!

Reference

Hill, Sandra. Viking in Love. New York: Avon Books, 2010.