Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I don't know what made me do it. But as sudden urges do, I found myself in the presence of items I hadn't bothered even thinking about for many, many years: Gothic romantic novels.

When I was living in Anoka all those years ago, we would frequent this used book store in Osseo. My mother was addicted (and I'm not talking about frequency, I'm talking about obsession) to romance novels. She calls me a literature snob because I have never really been a fan (I think I've called them "crap" a time or two - I apologize to anyone who has a particular love of this genre). Anyhow, back then, she got me reading these books of a romantic persuasion, and I have to admit: I did like them. Of course, I was between the ages of eleven and thirteen. I probably wasn't qualified to make a judgment about the quality of said books.

On a whim, I started thinking about these books. I think it started with a film conversation. For whatever reason, I came to the conclusion that Hollywood hasn't produced any good Gothic cinema for years, and the majority of which (and probably the best of which) was foreign in origin. I'm not really all that versed on the subject, but here I was expressing an opinion I had no right to express.

Anyway, it got me thinking about those books. So, down the basement I went and dug out these books. I only had a few of them left (I imagine that several trips ago, most went with to Half-Price Books and never returned). And honestly, I didn't really remember a single story. I don't think this a statement about how good a story any of them were. I suppose one story faded into another until I didn't remember what was what, especially when they were probably read in succession.

So now, here I am, re-reading Thunder Heights. And I gotta say, it's not the best written story I've ever encountered. (To be fair, these authors were rather prolific more out of necessity than desire. It's hard to be profound on a deadline.)

Thankfully, it wasn't until I got to page 130 that I encountered any statement like the following:

She raised her own head without hesitation and went quite simply into his arms. He was not gentle now. His mouth was hard upon her lips so that they felt bruised beneath its touch. Her body ached under the pressure of his arms, but she did not want the pain lessened. When he raised his head she would have put her arms about his neck and risen on her toes to rest her cheek again his own, admitting everything - all the wild feeling that surged through her, all the wanting so long held in check because there was no one to want. Her movements were those of one spellbound, as though she had no will of her own, and could bow only to his.

I got one word for you people: Ick!

She didn't want the pain lessened? She was spellbound? By a man?

If the kiss was so hard he actually bruised my lips, I'd be nipping that one in the bud. "You bruised my f---ing lips, you dick!" (I'm sounding a little angry today. I'll try to scale it back.)

Even on my most needy of days, I was never spellbound. This can't be based on any sort of reality. Maybe I'm being harsh. I suppose the origin of the novel dictated that there should be some deviation from reality; escapism. But come on! I wonder if she can feel the "wild feeling" surging through me (hint: it rhymes with Gromit).

Ah well, love scenes aside, I'm digging the descriptions of the settings. There is nothing more fascinating than a weird, big, old house filled with secrets from the past.

The turrets were no longer bright as Althea King had described them. Storms had weathered the house to a dingy gray, left too long unpainted, and the trees crowding about gave it the look of a place left uninhabited. It appeared enchanted, spellbound, there on its remote heights. Not a house, but the picture of a house, torn from the pages of fantasy.

I have this thing about big, old houses. They capture my imagination in ways that few things will. I sometimes wish I were stealthy enough to break into a few of them, just to peek around. My all-time favorite house on film is the house in The Changeling, the George C. Scott movie, not the Angelina Jolie pic. That giant old house was just created on a film set, but if it weren't, I can guarantee you I would've visited it by now.

Anyhow, I'll probably blast through these books, mainly just so I can say I did. It feels more like a guilty pleasure than an actually beneficial activity, but most reading is anyway.

By the way, and on a completely different note, I have watched the end number on the pilot episode of Glee at least twenty times. This is bordering on ridiculous, but admittedly, this is going to be a fun show if this episode is any indication. I wasn't a show choir person myself - I left that to my sister - I was already a band geek. Still, it has that quality that only a well-formed cast can put together. And who doesn't love Journey?!

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