06 October, 2010
Review: Medusa's Folly by Alison Paige
(It is interesting to me, if I can take a side road for a moment, how the politics of sex and romance change over the years. In the 80's we had the sweet books, the rape books, and the interracial books. Now we have the inspirational books, the hot reads, and the erotic books. Interracial relationships are pretty much gone, even the horrible depictions from the plantation novels.)
You know the classic definition of pornography, right? I know it when I see it? I am not sure why it is unacceptable to call something porn. If romance cannot be labeled 'porn for women' (and I agree, it should not be) then what should porn for women be called if not, well, porn for women? Erotica is a different animal - it is something that rises above it's primary goal of sexual titillation to successfully portray deeper dynamics of human relationships. While I don't care for Megan Hart, I do think she clears that bar. Anne Desclos clears that bar with both her work The Story of O and it's repudiation, Return to Roissy. (There is some controversy over the author of the second work. I find it brilliant in it's splintering of the fairy tale O has sold herself in the first.) Mr. Benson clears the bar for John Preston. Alison Paige takes the bar in the gut.
I don't know why that has to be a pejorative judgement. As porn, individual taste is individual taste. I am certain there are people who are perfectly content to read about greek goddesses leaving snail trails of 'cream' on acid rain bathed gargoyles without needing it to say anything more than that. Porn is where the money is. As a story, judged as more than a temporary shelter for a sexual offering, Medusa's Folly completely failed me. The initial explanation, that Medusa is so hungry for gratification that she must cling with desperation to whatever she can find makes no sense to me. If she has (as she suggests) been sexually involved with men she then met the gaze of (turning them to stone) mid act, one would think she has quite a collection of stone partners. With about five minutes consideration, she could easily create a way to have sex with human men without meeting their gaze. Her desperate hunger for human contact falls flat.
We will grant that she has run about checking to see if any of the gargoyles are up for it. So now we have Medusa, created to seek the destruction of all men because of her anger at her long ago rapist, and this stone dude who suddenly comes to life because.... that's not important. He was created by another goddess for failing to grant her sexual favors when he was obviously a man-whore and totally up for it with everyone else. Pissed her off. (Nobody seeks his consent, isn't that rape?) Turns out she's Medusa's mother. (Figures.) With one meeting of the eyes, Medusa and Uphir have fallen in love. Because they do, whatever, it's an eternal and devoted love. Mom doesn't understand. So she makes a deal. If they revoke their god status, they can be together. Of course they do. Because otherwise neither of them can ever have human sex again.
(Another side note - yesterday Amazon was selling this title. Today it disappeared from title search results, but was still on the author's search results. This evening it is no longer for sale to US customers. Is Amazon feeling some Kindle article heat? I don't know. Amazon has been good to me, we're cool.)
Anyway, I'll take a pass on the more expensive book. I know what I like and I'm just not interested in porn. Erotica I'll consider, but I prefer books about human relationships in their emotional and psychological complexity. Maybe one day we will understand why, as women, we can't just have porn. Maybe we'd spend less time defending conventional romance if we stopped trying to make the umbrella big enough to encompass every possible description. Maybe not. People do love to hate books where woman are respected or valued. Almost as much as they love to award ones where they are abused and thrown aside with the trash.