The Wall Street Journal informs us that books that used to require a brown paper wrapper have assumed a new disguise: e-reading devices. Apparently women are increasingly using their Kindles, Nooks, or iPads to read romance novels in all their increasingly bizarre incarnations: Amish, historical, pastoral, tragicomical, erotica, and now romantica, in which it seems that couples can have their sex cake and eat their happy ending too. And how convenient is it to have an e-reader so that you can have all 17 volumes of your favorite series without having to display them on a shelf to the scorn of your friends?
The Journal obligingly provides us with a brief excerpt from this literature. I won't give their summary of the plot of this particular book since it doesn't really matter anyway, but get a load of this (yes, it's fairly safe for work):
' "Thank you for spilling wine on my shirt," Elec said, stepping back and unbuttoning his shirt. He yanked it off with little care or concern for the fabric and tossed it on the floor with hard movements. His T-shirt, which also sported a smaller wine stain, was peeled off and sent after the dress shirt.Well, I guess if you're churning this stuff out for the consumers, the quality is bound to slip a little.
Tamara almost choked on her drool. Oh. My. God. "My pleasure," she said and gawked mercilessly at his ripped chest and abs.'
"He yanked it off with little care or concern." How do you yank off a shirt with care but no concern? With concern but no care?
"And tossed it on the floor with hard movements." Again, how do you "toss" something with "hard movements"? Maybe you can hurl something with hard movements. Maybe you can throw, or possibly fling (though that sounds too airy), or sling or cast it. And with hard movements, no less. Did he karate chop his shirt to the floor? Maybe he did the robot while undressing -- kind of a jerky little dance. I assume his hard movements were meant to be the opposite of sinuous movements, though I bet the author gets that adjective in there somewhere in the book. It's too good not to use.
"His T-shirt, which also sported a smaller wine stain..." Now this is just lazy writing, but I bet we can make it more interesting. How 'bout: "The wine had seeped through his dress shirt and bled onto the chest of his T-shirt"? How 'bout: "He peeled off his ruined T-shirt and thrust it at her. 'Wash it,' he demanded." That's got a little air of realism to it.
"Tamara almost choked on her drool." I actually have seen this sort of thing happen, to infants, and believe you me it is the antithesis of erotic.
"and gawked mercilessly". How does one gawk mercilessly? How does one gawk mercifully, if it comes to that?
I'm reminded of Florence King's observations on pornography from the hilariously unrecommendable When Sisterhood Was In Flower:
About this time, I came across an anti-porn essay by Pamela Hansford-Johnson, who claimed that the literary worthlessness of porn can be proved by transposing its style to a description of the boiling and eating of an egg.
I gave it a try and came up with this:
I took the glistening, virginally white oval out of the fiercely bubbling cauldron of hot, hot, hot water and cupped my hand around it, feeling its contours with sensations of shimmering delight. I reached for my long, sturdy, battering egg knife and tapped. The shell slipped off and I touched the tender, moist, protein-swollen membranes of the secret softness. The steamy slice of hot, ready, delectable egg burned my fingers but I thrust firmly with my rigid tool and inserted the erect, serrated blade. The lubricious, golden yellow, ambrosial nectar of the pulsating, quickening core gushed out into my egg cup. I centered my mouth over the slickened surface of the gently curving silver spoon and ate, ate, ate.
When I finished this exercise, I stared at my long, yellow, blue-lined Nixonian legal pad in horror.Wrap that egg in brown paper!