Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trashy Novels? Installment One

Men as victims, falsely accused. Evil feminists. In Chastain’s fictional world, women are the protagonists, men simply objects upon which women project much (good or evil). And there’s a strong sexual undercurrent in them, sometimes veering toward the strange.... 
No wonder your “books” have not captured the imagination.... They’re simply not very good.
... your self-published novels ... tend toward the trashy.
The comments above were written by a critic of mine who is bigoted toward me because I'm a proSoutherner and a proponent of Southern (i.e., Confederate) heritage. His disapproval of me includes disparaging "reviews" of my novels which, significantly, he hasn't read, on his personal blog.

I'm not sure how he conceptualizes "strong sexual undercurrent". I don't know if I would apply that term to my stories -- I've described them, especially Southern Man, as having sexual themes, and a strong sexual component because, well, it's difficult to write about sexual harassment or the destructive fallout of the sexual revolution with writing about ... sex.

Here's a description of my first release, written cover-blurb style.
In 1983, in moss-hung Verona, Georgia, the tender and tenacious love between a hardworking man and his adoring wife is tested by sudden adversity.
Corporate executive Troy Stevenson must confront his nascent alcohol abuse or he risks losing the wife, daughter and son he deeply loves.  When his latent destructiveness impacts his family,  he moves to their weekend cottage to come to grips with his personal weaknesses.
But busybodies at his company assume he left home because his marriage is in trouble. Encouraged by the assumption, co-worker Brooke Emerson, an amoral, 1980s material girl romantically obsessed with Troy, attempts to seduce him, setting in motion a chain of events with harrowing consequences for him and his family.
Southern Man takes readers from the hills of Appalachia to the University of Alabama during the Paul "Bear" Bryant era; from staid New England to drug-drenched and sex-saturated Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love; from the glittering skyline of Atlanta to moss-hung south Georgia -- and reveals what can happen when a good man becomes the object of lust and the target of vengeance.
Yes, there are without doubt "sexy" passages in the novel.  But are they trashy? In my opinion, trashy sex scenes are written to titillate the reader -- usually solely for that reason. I believe this is the motive for writing pornography, erotica (porn lite) and erotic romance (porn extra-lite).

By contrast, the sexy scenes in Southern Man serve at least two main purposes -- to illustrate the strong sexual bond, within marriage, between the protagonist and his wife; and to compare it with the destructive "free-love" style of sex handed down from the sexual revolution. Below is an excerpt that I consider to be one of the most overtly sexual passages in the novel.

Being each other’s first and only, Patty had nothing to compare him to, but she was quite certain that there was no better lover on earth. As newlyweds, they learned sex together, doing what came naturally and teaching each other.

He could be the tenderest, most attentive lover imaginable. Most of the time, he was sweet and slow, his attention focused on her—on loving and pleasing her. But other times, more rarely, he was an animal, intense and vigorous and single-minded, in it for himself, driven by his body’s physiological need for release. Then, he seemed hypersensitive to everything she did, every touch, every kiss, the very sound of her voice.

Both extremes filled Patty's heart with love for him, like Scripture said—good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over—even as they filled her body with cravings for him.

She especially cherished the knowledge that no one else in the world—nobody but she—knew what he was like when he was sexed up. That part of him was hers, and hers alone.

Nobody but she had ever seen him when his hair was tousled by his lover’s fingers ... when his lips grew red and his lipline went fuzzy ... when moonlight slanting through the windows reflected off the whites of his eyes and the tips of his teeth, making them glow like nacre ... when, under lowered lids, his dark eyes smouldered, and his beautiful face took on a sultry expression of yearning ... when he was caught up in the warm, dreamy pursuit of ultimate gratification, and his respiration would go from long and deep to quick and staccato ... when it would catch in his throat from a spike in pleasure as they slowly, tantalizingly worked their way toward fulfillment ... it was like making love to an angel come down from heaven.

Trashy? You tell me.

I'll visit this subject again in the future.

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