Monday, January 09, 2006

"And then he..." --"Next stop is Borough Hall" --Damn [UPDATED]

Today I took three trains home from work. Read the Amos Oz book on the first two. But for the third ride, I wanted to make sure not to miss my stop, and so went with iPod-no-book. But little did I know, I would engage in some literary activity all the same. Over the shoulder of a woman sitting near where I was standing, I was able to read a good few paragraphs of Thugs and the Women Who Love Them. Definitely more stop-missing material there than in what I'd been reading.

It's kind of shocking how many respectable-looking adult women read text-only pornography on their commutes. I don't mean romance novels with the occasional, "And then he pressed her busom up against his bare chest and sighed." I mean extremely literal, explicit act-by-act accounts of who did what to whom, with, in this particular case, the possibility of the girl being underage and the certain lack of condom. The sorts of situations Ross Douthat and Leon Kass might imagine would interest men but not women.


Amber Taylor has responded, pointing out that the book I mention falls into a "black women's literature" category, while a more or less equivalent genre written by and geared towards white women exists as well. My sense from subway over-shoulder-reading (no, you really don't want to be in my car on days I've forgotten a book) is that, while equally trashy "white" books are certainly popular (the glamorous-urban-girl sketch on the cover is of someone white, rather than black), the "pornography" is less sexual and more material. The fantasy is not getting a thug into one's bed but rather getting Manolos, Prada, and so on into one's closet. I have no idea if this is a nation-wide phenomenon or a NYC one, but that does seem to be the breakdown.

Oh, and while I failed to mention this when I first put up this post, I've blogged about the "urban fiction" phenomenon before.


Amber said...

I wasn't talking about the pink-covered post-Bridget Jones chick lit, but the old school bodice rippers with Fabio on the cover. Maybe these are less common in NYC, but here in flyover country they still sell like hotcakes.

Phoebe said...

But isn't everything from "Thugs" to "Prada" in the category of "urban fiction," reading for working, city women on their commutes? My sense is that subway readers drawn to this genre want to read about glamorized versions of themselves. Fabio and bodices don't fit the bill.

Amber said...

No. There's a difference between reading about a glamorized version of yourself and reading escapist porn (which need not be set in a historical time period, but often is for white women's romance novels; then again, it's probably hard for a woman of color to related to the protagonists in Outlander, for example, where one fo the main points is that our vigorously sexual protagonist passes for English). You'd know better than I which category Thugs falls into, but from Dickerson's description there's a large contingent of works that are as heavy on the banging and light on the materialism/career fluff as the Fabio-covered novels of old.

hikmahatesyou said...

Zane is a big hit on my commute. But based on her TV appearances and Amazon review her books are sort of like your standard Harlequin romance but with black upper or middle class protagonists in an "urban"-ish setting; they're also really really dirty. Moreso than the romances I read as a teenager. Check out the Statistically Improbable Phrases for her books on Amazon.