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For the holidays last year, [livejournal.com profile] siryn99 sent me a copy of Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature by Emma Donoghue. It was an interesting sounding book, and the best thing about it was that it meant she'd been paying attention to my talking about wanting to read more lesbian fiction.

Donoghue's premise is that there is a long history of desire between women in literature. She divides the book into six parts, each focusing on a different kind of story:

Travesties: Cross-dressing (whether by a woman or a man) causes the "accident" of same-sex desire.

Inseparables: Two passionate friends defy the forces trying to part them.

Rivals: A man and a woman compete for a woman's heart.

Monsters: A wicked woman tries to seduce and destroy an innocent one.

Detection: The discovery of a crime turns out to be the discovery of same-sex desire.

Out: A woman's life is changed by the realization that she loves her own sex.
Even though the book is arranged around themes and each theme encompasses literature from varying eras, the book also goes somewhat chronologically: "Travesties" starts with a story from Ovid (around 8 C.E.) and "Out" ends with Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet from 1998.

I read the whole book in three sittings, because it is completely engrossing. I've only read a couple of the pieces of literature Donoghue talks about, but she gives enough of a plot overview for each story that you can follow her history/argument even without the literary background. If you do want to read any of them, her selected bibliography includes lists of primary and secondary sources as well as a suggested further reading list: "I warmly recommend the following titles (given in the order of composition), because they are available and highly enjoyable."

Donoghue has enough examples over time that I definitely bought her argument for the long history of desire between women in literature. The part I'm a little iffy on is the way she treats endings. (I will freely admit that I have a bias here; story endings are very important to me.) Sure, there's a history, but in most cases, the women don't end up together at the end. For many of those stories, Donoghue's argument is that the return to the heterosexual norm doesn't logically fit with the rest of the story. For example, the convenient brother in female bridegroom stories (a woman dresses up as a man and another woman falls in love with her) doesn't quite make sense, because the woman fell in love with personality, not looks. That's an interesting argument, and points toward a long history of compulsory heterosexuality, but I thought it also glosses over the fact that there's a long history of thwarted desire between women in literature.

My mother wants to borrow the book next, but if anyone else wants to read it after her, let me know.
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Last year when I asked for lesbian fiction suggestions, one friend highly recommended Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet. I'd heard of Tipping the Velvet, but it never sounded interesting to me, and [livejournal.com profile] inlovewithnight had just read it, and the things she didn't like about it (spoilers in her post) made me think I wouldn't like it either. Then the friend who recommended it gave me a copy for my birthday, with the note that even if I ended up not liking it, she thought I should own it.

I took the book - and nothing else to read - with me when I went for jury duty in March, and read the first 48 pages while waiting to be called to a courtroom. Then it went back into the stack of unread books. When I was on vacation in August, I saw a recommendation for it in an independent bookstore that said the sex scenes were hot, so yesterday I finally went back to it and flipped through to find just those parts. One of them is hot, and the others are okay.

I didn't like the book for basically the same reasons I didn't think I was going to: first, because I don't like literary fiction, and secondly, because I don't like historical fiction about queer characters based on real history. I think it's the literary fiction aspect that was the most annoying one to me in this book; nothing in the world can make me care about that much detail about oyster-parlours. Yesterday's skim of the rest of the book somewhat allayed my fears about it as historical fiction; the bad things that happen to Nan aren't quite as dire or as historically-bound as I would have been anxious about. I did pretty much laugh at the ending, though, in which spoilers. )

Anyway, a lot of people have loved Tipping the Velvet, and the writing in the part I read wasn't bad in a technical sense, so if it sounds like your sort of thing, you might like it. If you dislike the kinds of things I dislike, you probably won't like it.

It's been almost a year since my friend gave me the book and I've made a sincere effort to read it, so I feel justified in getting rid of it now. If anyone wants my copy, let me know. If no one claims it in a week, it's going on PaperBackSwap.
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My mom and I went down to Sacramento last month to see Wicked. She saw the San Francisco production a few years ago; I knew almost nothing about it except that it's different from the book (which I haven't read anyway) and that it's femslashy.

Spoilers, ranting, and a recs request. )
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You may have noticed from my last couple of writing goals check-in posts that I haven't done any work on my book for a while. I hit a point where I feel paralyzed. My characters are going on a first date. I've never been on a date, so I have no idea how this should go: What do they talk about? When they leave together, do they take separate cars to one of the characters' houses or do they share a car, leaving one of them to take the other back to her car later? Part of my problem with this story in general is that I want it to be not terrible (really, I totally buy into the idea that erotica doesn't have to be perfect to sell) because the lesbian romances I've read are unbelievably bad. If this were a m/m novel, I would have no problem; I know the patterns for that, and I can write those kinds of stories all day long. But this. I feel like I'm floundering in a space where I have no examples, and I don't have the personal experience to draw from as a substitute. (Also, one of my characters has business ambitions, which I don't understand at all.) It seems like this should be easy anyway since it's just your standard marriage of convenience plot (think Jennifer Crusie's Strange Bedpersons and The Cinderella Deal), but somehow every time I think about, I get paralyzed all over again.

So, help? I don't know if I need ideas for what they can talk about or if I need suggestions of things to read that would help me learn the patterns or if I just need ideas of how to stop being afraid of it. I'll take whatever you've got.
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The Art of Detection is the last of Laurie R. King's Kate Martinelli books, and thank goodness. I really don't think I could have handled another one, but King is a compelling enough writer that her books are hard to put down.

Spoilers/Review )
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Night Work is the fourth of the Kate Martinelli mysteries. There is only one more book in the series, so I'll probably finish it off, but if there were more books, I would probably give up now.

Spoilers/Commentary )
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With Child is the third Kate Martinelli mystery. Given my experience with the last two, I saved this one for a Saturday morning when I could sit down and read the whole thing in one go without staying up past my bedtime.

Spoilers/Review )
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I liked Laurie King's A Grave Talent enough to request To Play the Fool from the library and give it a try. To Play the Fool falls into one of those categories that sometimes plague novels by people who are generally considered genre authors: it's a good book, but it's not a very good mystery novel.

Spoilers/Review )
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Perhaps you're stressed about Yuletide. Perhaps you're worried about those last few holiday gifts you still haven't bought. Perhaps you hate LJ's newest "improvement." Perhaps your office was eighty degrees in the middle of winter. I am here to tell you: you can put all that aside and enjoy the following links.

Good News 1
The first queer Navy homecoming kiss involves lesbians. Both of whom are in the Navy. Original (now overloaded) link courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] j_crew_guy.

Good News 2
There isn't just going to be a Fast and the Furious six. There's going to be six and seven. (Spoilers at the link for Fast Five.) Link courtesy of chainsawkatana.

Rec
The Art of Seduction (John/Sherlock) by flawedamythyst is a Sherlock AU where instead of The Science of Deduction, Sherlock's website is The Science of Seduction. It's essentially a Queer As Folk UK AU (and it's very much making me want to rewatch that), and it's fantastic. It's funny, it's romantic, and it has the same kind of urgency as QAF UK. I meant to stop reading and finish up my Yuletide story hours ago, but I couldn't tear myself away. Although it's on AO3 as a series of three stories, the first two both end at places where you'll want to keep reading, so keep its length in mind when you start reading. There is some graphic violence in part two; if that sort of thing is tough for you to read, you can skip the details and still get the idea of the story.
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When I asked, both here and on Facebook, for lesbian fiction recs, Laurie King kept coming up as a suggestion. I don't read very many mysteries, although I read more when I was a teenager (my mother for a very long time read primarily mysteries with some literary fiction and poetry thrown in), but I was willing to give it a try.

The first two hundred pages of A Grave Talent are very good. It's an interesting mystery being worked on by interesting characters, primarily Kate Martinelli and Al Hawkins. The one quibble I have with that part of the book is that Kate's partner is referred to only by name - Lee - for 190 pages before King finally reveals that Lee is a woman. I find that kind of deliberate keeping the reader in the dark annoying, but I'm willing to let it pass in this instance since the book was written in 1993; I'm willing to accept that the world was a different place in the early 90s and this is one of the ways it was different.

I did not think as much of the next hundred and fifty pages. We find out who the murderer is on page 198, and the rest of the book is occupied with actually catching said criminal. But before we get to that, there is a whole bunch of artist as precious special snowflake nonsense, and yes, I do mean to be that derisive about it. Spoilers/Details )

All of that said, the mystery was very good, and I will probably read the next book.
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Malinda Lo's Huntress takes place in the same world as Ash (my review here), only several hundred years earlier.

Our main characters are Kaede and Taisin, students at The Academy, where girls go to learn to be sages. Taisin has never wanted anything but to be a sage. Kaede has never even managed the simplest blessing, but she doesn't want to go home to be married off for political advantage. The land is in a state of constant winter, and the king has been invited to visit the Fairy Queen. Instead, he sends his son, Con, along with Taisin, Kaede, and a small batch of guards, to accept her invitation.

Spoilers/Review )

My greatest wish is for Malinda Lo to be one of those writers who really learns to write by the third book. Ash and Huntress are both good, with moments that are exquisite, but I think Lo has the potential to be truly great.

If anyone wants to read Huntress, leave me a comment, and you can have my copy.
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I'd really like to read more lesbian fiction. I will take any and all recs, from any genre of professionally published work or fan fic. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you already know my tastes, but just in case you don't, a quick rundown of my recent-ish experience with lesbian profic: loved Malinda Lo's Ash and Huntress (review forthcoming) and all of Naomi Kritzer's work; hated Gerri Hill's The Killing Room and Karin Kallmaker's Substitute for Love; and am struggling my way through SteamPowered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories (although to be fair to the collection, I don't really like steampunk prose). Any suggestions?
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If Melissa Ferrick's "Drive" (listen/download at box.net) is the ultimate song about sex, then Melissa Etheridge's "Sleep" (listen/download at box.net) is the ultimate song about afterglow.

This post has been brought to you by lesbian singers named Melissa and that time a record label retweeted me.
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Remember a couple of entries ago when I said I needed a lot of words to talk about how bad the book I last read was? It took somewhere around 1500 words, which you can read here (note: the post includes spoilers, but you don't really want to read the book anyway) at [livejournal.com profile] romoerotic.
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I try to avoid spoilers for books I already know I want to read, and I knew I wanted to read Malinda Lo's Ash the first time I saw it on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. I did read the opening comments of at least two posts that said, "Everyone keeps saying they wish this was longer, and so do I." I'll say that too, and I have some ideas about how it could be longer.

But before I get to that, I will say that I loved this. It's essentially a Cinderella retelling, Spoilers )

I did buy the book (yay for multiple Barnes & Noble gift cards!), so if anyone wants to read it, let me know and you can have my copy.
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I read Karin Kallmaker's Substitute for Love today. It's a cheesy lesbian romance novel, which I knew going into it, but it has two insurmountable flaws, aside from the disappointingly low number of sex scenes.

The first flaw, and one of the first things you can pick up in the book, is that there isn't one likable male character in the whole thing. All the men are horrible--Holly's male boss fires her friend Tori because she's a lesbian, Holly's boyfriend is mentally and emotionally abusive, Holly's father was a rapist, and Reyna's father is the manipulative head of an extremely conservative think tank. While the starkly negative portrayal of men sparked my anger, it is actually part of a larger problem in the composition of the characters. There aren't any likable straight men--even the token nice guy isn't very nice--only one gay man--and he's Reyna's father's "ex-gay" assistant--only two straight women--one of whom is one of the villains of the novel, the other of whom is dying--and even the "bad" lesbian isn't that bad. The answer to the problem of negative portrayals, or no portrayals at all, of lesbians is not to portray everyone else negatively, or not at all.

The second problem is related to the lack of sex scenes. At no point in "Holly's Quest for Orgasm" does anyone suggest to Holly that masturbation might be a stop along the way. She receives advice from a number of lesbian friends (all, of course, happily paired off into domestic lesbian bliss) on the potential for her new sex life, and not one of them suggests she spend a little time getting intimate with her body on her own terms. If a friend of mine were to tell me she'd never had an orgasm, the first thing, the very first thing, I'd suggest would be that she go home and spend some time figuring out how she likes to be touched. Holly is a mathematician (one of the things I really like about the book is her constant use of math); she could even frame it as a mathematical query if that's the only way she can approach it: What is the minimum number of people who must be involved for an orgasm to occur? It's Holly's desperate search for someone else to get her off that is precisely what angers me when I rant about couple's privilege. I don't need someone else to make me happy, I don't need someone else to make me complete, and I certainly don't need someone else to make me come. Neither does Holly, neither does Reyna, and neither do you.

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Ruth Sadelle Alderson

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