The Cultural Gutter

dumpster diving of the brain

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Lives! Camaraderie! Action!

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I talk a lot. This comes as zero surprise to anyone who has ever met me. But it’s not just a personal preference. No, really! It’s also pretty much required for what I do. I run an independent bookstore: talking to customers is a large part of my job. One of the best parts, in fact. […]

For Worse And For Better. But Mostly Worse.

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Now is the summer of our discontent… We’ve finally gotten down to actual summer weather in the last two weeks. So of course I spent the last two weeks without AC as I dealt with a series of cascading electrical problems. One complete power shut-down later, things are finally back on the level… just in time […]

Powers That Be

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By some strange quirk of timing and location, I am currently involved in or gearing up for three different elections at once.  On the federal front it’s just a by-election to fill a recently vacated seat: it is the least visible and strident of the three. The provincial election is in full swing, loud and […]

And They Call It Puppy Love

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I own several shares of a cat. It’s not a weird as it sounds. A friend with a cat travels travels a lot, so the kitty spends a fair amount of time with me. She’s spending this week with me in fact, while her owner is off swimming, running, and cycling hundreds of kilometres at a triathlon […]

You’ve Got A Friend

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My grade one teacher hung up a lot of art in our classroom. Some pieces were temporary: the cartoon ghosts at Hallowe’en; the fold-out bells at Christmas; the uneven hearts we made for Valentine’s Day. Others were framed and permanent, like the giant map of mostly Canada (the bits of the US that ran along […]

Thieves To The Left Of Me, Killers To The Right.

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This month I thought I’d take a look at some of the bad boy heroes of Romance. I’m not talking about common-or-garden variety bad boys, here. That strain, the rebellious, troubled men, often misunderstood and usually returning from years spent away, are a staple of the genre.  They have a satisfactory character arc and generally […]

No, It Really Is What You Know

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Holy crap, it’s Labour Day weekend already. Seems like one minute I was looking at hopeful seedlings in my garden and the next I was staring sadly at the mashed detritus of spindly broken plants and cursing construction workers… wait, I’m getting off track. What I really mean is, the unofficial end of summer really snuck […]

Strong. Women.

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Ever have one of those months in which several disparate threads from different aspects of your life all suddenly seem to be part of the same cloth? I’m having one right now. The recent truly excellent articles by carol and alex combined with the current interwebs-fueled firestorm over ‘fake geek girls’ and the collective cognitive […]

Beach Reading

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It may not entirely feel like it, but it’s finally summer. Commercial fiction gets its second biggest bump of the year during the summer (the biggest is at Christmas, obviously), and  because the Romance genre is the largest section, its uptick in sales is the most noticeable.   That’s because mild and humid as it might […]

The Many Faces Of Man. Or Rather, Men.

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Alex’s excellent article last week prompted Gutter Overlord Carol to suggest we each use this month to write about masculinity in our own particular capacity. Having been by odd coincidence right in the middle of reading The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine (a fascinating look at the physical and hormonal characteristics unique to, um, the […]

The Measure Of Success

I’ve been thinking about heroes and archetypes again (which is not actually news: story archetype is a sandbox in which I happily spend a lot of time). Feels like it’s everywhere these days.  A few weeks back I was on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention that discussed love and monsters. Alex and Carol […]

Things That Go Bump In The Night

(No, I don’t mean that kind of bump. Sheesh.  You people.) Given the timing of this column, and its proximity to Halloween, it seemed logical to write about the spooky side of Romance.  But it was a little harder than I thought to put together a reading list.  I wanted to concentrate on books that […]

Hitting The Books, Hard

As I said this time last year, I like back to school season.  I love the energy of it.  I miss the sense of anticipation, of knowing I had lots of new things to look forward to.  At least, usually I do.  Perhaps I’m just feeling particularly curmudgeonly this season, or maybe summer was just […]

Lovers In A Dangerous Time

Recently, I’ve been thinking about danger.  Specifically, the kind of danger that runs through a certain subsection of Romance, often called ‘romantic suspense’.  These are the stories that drop the hero and heroine into physical jeopardy in addition to exposing them to all the emotional risks of falling in love.  When done well, they share […]

Catching Up

Last February, I had a chance to talk to Julianne MacLean, a USA Today bestselling Romance author from Bedford, Nova Scotia.   We discussed her career development, her move to a new publisher, and her connection to the writing community.  Julianne was about to see the release of a brand new trilogy, all three books of […]

Heroine Addict

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Apparently, once I get started on archetypes, I can’t stop. So having touched on the archtypes found in stories and in heroes, I’m going to have to complete the trifecta. Theories about the nature of the modern Romance heroine are legion. She’s a placeholder. She’s an expression of modern femininity. She’s an aspect of human […]

It’s Fun to Go to the R.W.A

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The internet allows writers to do the impossible: write in isolation while in company. A writer might still face off single-handedly against blank screen, but behind the accusing blink of the cursor there are thousands of minds ready to offer information, support and catwaxing options. On the other hand, it’s not as if, pre-internet, every […]

That’s a Wrap

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I enjoy this time of year. Partly because I work in retail, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a kind of gift: festive and fun, and landing somewhere between the insanity of December and the dead quiet of January. But also because I get a kick out of all the lists […]

All That Fairy Tale Nonsense

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One of the many criticisms levelled at romance novels is that they’re a poor model for women when it comes to real-life relationships. All that fairy tale nonsense, detractors say, will make women want the wrong things from their partners. I could list a dozen things wrong with that assumption, but I’ll limit myself to […]

These Are A Few Of My Least Favourite Things

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Every now and again, I like to pause in my appreciation of the romance genre and take the opportunity to bitch about it instead. I know it’s not perfect. As the largest genre in the world, it also contains the largest collection of bad books. I don’t review books I think are terrible – mostly […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Teleport City, the Gutter’s own Carol writes about 12 books that vary in reputability and their harrowing nature. They include books by Shirley Jackson, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith and Herman Melville.

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    Anne Billson has posted a 1985 interview she did with director George Miller (the Mad Max films). Miller talks about many things including Aunty Entity’s probable past as a hero and Max as, in Mel Gibson’s words, “a closet human being.” (Thanks, Matt!)

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    At New York Magazine, David Wallace-Wells writes about bees, colony collapse disorder and beekeeper Dave Hackenberg. “It’s been a long decade for bees. We’ve been panicking about them nonstop since 2006, when beekeeper Dave Hackenberg inspected 2,400 hives wintering in Florida and found 400 of them abandoned — totally empty. American beekeepers had experienced dramatic die-offs before, as recently as the previous winter in California and in regular bouts with a deadly bug called the varroa mite since the 1980s. But those die-offs would at least produce bodies pathologists could study. Here, the bees had just disappeared. In the U.K., they called it Mary Celeste syndrome, after the merchant ship discovered off the Azores in 1872 with not a single passenger aboard. The bees hadn’t even scrawled CROATOAN in honey on the door on their way out of the hive.”

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    Andrew Nette has a pair of interesting pieces on pulp you might be interested in. First, he writes about “the New Pulp” and a bit about Fifty Shades of Gray in “Fifty Shades of Pulp.” Then he writes about pulp and literacy and furthering social advancement in “Pulp and Circumstance.”  “Most people view pulp as either exploitative lowbrow culture or highly collectable retro artefact. Yet pulp has a secret history which Rabinowitz’s book uncovers. Her central thesis is that cheap, mass-produced pulp novels not only provided entertainment and cheap titillating thrills, but also brought modernism to the American people, democratising reading and, in the process, furthering culture and social enlightenment.”

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    The Projection Booth interviews actor Ed Asner.

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    Transcript from BAFTA’s tribute to director Johnnie To, “Johnnie To: A Life In Pictures.” It’s a great interview with To about his films and process. “Like when I made The Mission I didn’t have a script. It was 1999 and I didn’t have any money so we went to Taiwan and they gave us very little money to hurry up and make a film, so without any script we just started making it. And after 19 days we made the film.” (Thanks to the Heroic Sisterhood!)

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