neyronrose (neyronrose) wrote,

various ramblings on books and blogs

I saw TeddyPig's ( post about his conversation with Erastes.  The discussion on it went different places.  I haven't read Longhorns, so I can't speak too much directly on the book.  If Erastes says it's not greatly historically accurate, I believe her.  I'm sure it's a fun book anyway.  I have read several of The Man From C.A.M.P. stories, and they're certainly a wild, wacky ride.  The more I learn about Victor Banis, the more I realize what a privilege it was to hear him give a talk about his books and his place in history.  His books might not be considered high literature, but they are important in their own way.  Popular fiction reaches the people who are looking for entertainment and characters they can relate to -- it's my opinion that it reaches a lot more people than literary fiction does.  So there you've got books which have their flaws, but are still highly enjoyable.

I've never read Maurice, either, though I've read plenty of books about repressed characters who search for an ideal of Platonic love.  I've also read my share of books, fiction and non-fiction, with higher class men romanticizing the working class, with some taking working-class lovers.  I just don't get the characters who are thirty years old before they realize they're gay.  You'd think they'd have some clue before that.  I guess that's just some severe repression.  What I've found is that I can only read so many books with these middle-class or higher virgin men.  I'm not even talking about the stories about men who "turn" gay.  I find those completely unrealistic anyway.  Why can't you have some stories with men who've experimented at school, had chance encounters here and there, had lovers?  Mother Clap's Molly House and some books about Renaissance Florence prove that cruising has been around for many centuries.  I've read Gay New York, and I believe it said that bathhouses where men would meet up for sex have been around since the early part of the twentieth century.

I'd like to read about historical romance characters who acknowledge at least to themselves who they're lusting for.  They certainly could struggle with society's homophobia and their own.  The historians who study old court records of sodomy trials have found testimony from some of the defendants saying that they didn't feel that what they did was wrong at all.  People did work through internalized homophobia, or just reject society's views on what they were doing.  The men did gather together, support each other in various ways, have their own subcultures.  Sure, you have people who are isolated, but you've also got these little societies of men living their lives as best they could, knowing what would happen if they got caught by the law -- but also knowing that a lot of people didn't get caught, and could find their share of happiness.

There are some problems for romance with some of the historical situations.  In ancient Greece and Rome, you'd have citizens taking adolescent boys as lovers, and, ideally, being their mentors in all kinds of ways, like the Mentor the word originated from.  Men who could afford it were supposed to get married in whichever time period, so they'd just take lovers or tricks on the side.  Same-age relationships -- not necessarily so much, or not considered the ideal really, at least into more modern times.  Sometimes things worked out better if there was a difference in age or class.  Where are working-class men in historical romances?  You've still got quite the range of classes to chose from -- kings had their favorites, dukes had their favorites -- writers could do something with that.  So same age, both middle-class or wealthy, both unmarried -- all unlikely in many historical eras, but the characters don't have to be isolated, severely repressed, or homogenized.  They can have lives and faults and some life experience.
Tags: rambling, reading

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