Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Making of an Erotic Romance Reader

Tomorrow my other half will be over at the Risky Regencies blogging about Mansfield Park in the week-long (with a prize!) build up to Jane Austen's birthday on December 16. The Riskies each picked their favorite Austen book to discuss, and I knew Mansfield Park would be a problem, so I volunteered to talk about it. Just to give you a preview, I found it an extraordinarily sexy book; there's a lot of physical awareness among the characters and a huge amount of activity taking place around rooms and spaces and entrances. I kept coming across passages that just didn't sound like Jane Austen (color coded for your convenience):

...stopping at the entrance take a last look at the five or six determined couples, who were still hard at work--and then, creeping slowly up the principal staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful.

And I wondered why the book, that once struck me as being tedious, longwinded, and with the nerdiest of heroes and heroines, now bristles with sexuality. (Oh, okay. Fanny and Edmund are still pretty nerdy.) The simple answer is that I read differently and I've changed, and possibly I'm smarter now about Jane Austen. I'd hope so, considering how long it's been.

On the other hand there are also books I've always found sexy--Jane Eyre, for instance (see my post Jane on Jane). I'm indifferent to Mr. Rochester--for me the big turn-on in the book has always been Lowood. All that discipline. All that spanking, dressed in frilly white underwear and black stockings, under the lascivious gaze of Brocklehurst and the Board of Trustees (I made that up. Didn't I?).

What books have you found that you've interpreted differently at different stages of your life? Or what books do you feel you have a particular insight into because you're a reader/writer of erotic romance?


Pam Rosenthal said...

I'm deeply embarrassed by how I so totally didn't get Villette when I was in my 20s. Talk about a book seething with rage and passion -- even as the characters speak Victorian morality they're trying to see the volcanic spirit in each other. It's utterly knocking me out this time.

Georgie Lee said...

I had to read Pride and Prejudice in high school and I didn't like it. I read it again in my twenties and loved it. Sometimes a little age does help you appreciate a story.

Kate Pearce said...

actually I found some of the Georgette Heyer's far more sexy and out there than I had ever realized when I first read them in my innocent teens :) Particularly the Duke of Avon's family and Damarel in Venetia

Jane Lockwood said...

Oh, Villette rocks, absolutely. It's still something of a word of mouth classic, still put in the shade by Jane Eyre.

I'm toying with the idea of re-reading Heyer, Kate. I read her and Hemingway when I was about 17 and while I don't know about re-reading Hemingway, I'd like to see how Heyer has aged (or to be more accurate how I have!)

Georgie, I'm so glad you liked P&P. I think sometimes required texts at school are curses rather than the great educational experiences they're meant to be.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Venetia's the only erotic Heyer I know (though I'm not a great Heyer reader). Very sweetly and intelligently erotic.

Sharon Page said...

I'm planning to re-read Heyer also. I read her when I used to work shelving books at the public library. They had lots of books, large print I think, but now, I don't think they're on the shelves anymore. At least not in the smaller branches.

I loved The Great Gatsby, which I read in my teens, and would like to read it again. Also, Rebecca, which is a story I come to differently each time I read it.

Celia May Hart said...
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Celia May Hart said...
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