The Cultural Gutter

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

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 […]

Now vs. Then

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Generally speaking, Romances are divided into two broad groups: contemporary and historical. Those distinctions are somewhat fluid. For instance, although it used to refer to anything set after  1900, ‘contemporary’ now encompasses anything set after World War II. ‘Historical’, meanwhile, covers everything else.

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Paleofuture, Matt Novak writes about Idiocracy‘s unpleasant implications: “Sure. As an over-the-top comedic dystopia, the movie is actually enjoyable. But the movie’s introduction makes it an unnerving reference to toss around as our go-to insult….Unlike other films that satirize the media and the soul-crushing consequences of sensationalized entertainment (my personal favorite being 1951′s Ace in the Hole), Idiocracy lays the blame at the feet of an undeserved target (the poor) while implicitly advocating a terrible solution (eugenics). The movie’s underlying premise is a fundamentally dangerous and backwards way to understand the world.” (via The Projection Booth)

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    Friend of the Gutter, Will McKinley looks at “The 1979 Rockford Files Episode That Inspired The Sopranos.” “A gang from Newark’s South Side is hiding Vinnie Martine’s body in a restaurant freezer. Tony’s mad because Anthony Jr. got caught pranking another mobster. And a boss who’s trying to reform gets his mansion sprayed with bullets. Remember that episode of The Sopranos? If you do, your memory’s playing tricks on you, because all these things happened on a 1979 episode of The Rockford Files—written by Sopranos creator David Chase.”

    And McKinley defends classic television with, “In Praise of Vintage Television.”

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    Journalist Margot Adler has died. She is best known for her work as a journalist on NPR, but she also created the speculative fiction radio program, “The Hour Of The Wolf” and was the writer of Drawing Down The Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (1979) and Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side (2014). The New York Times, NPR and  Suvudu have obituaries.  Here Adler discusses Vampires Are Us. And here is an excerpt from Adler’s memoir, Heretic’s Heart (1997).

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    The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its Midnight Madness and Vanguard programs for 2014. There’s lots of goodness in there and it’s worth taking a look even if you aren’t going to the festival, so you can you movie watching later this year or next. We’ll be posting the trailers from the films later.

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    Actor James Shigeta has died. Shigeta appeared in Die Hard (1988), The Crimson Kimono (1959) The Flower Drum Song (1961),  Bridge To The Sun (1961), Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966), The Yakuza (1974) and many, many television shows.  The AV Club, Den Of Geek and Angry Asian Man have obituaries. Bridge to the Sun is discussed by Robert Osborne and Dr. Peter Feng on TCM.  At RogerEbert.com, Matt Zoller Seitz writes an appreciation of Shigeta’s life and work. “Shigeta, who died yesterday at 81, was a marvelous performer, and his work as Nakatomi Corporation President Joseph Takagi in the original 1988 Die Hard is one of my favorite examples of how an imaginative actor can sketch out a life in just a few scenes and lines.”

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    At RogerEbert.com, Alan Zilberman explores the history of the eye in cinema from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) to Mark Cahill’s I Origins (2014). (via Matt Zoller Seitz)

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