According to recent statistics, men have all but stopped reading fiction. Do they watch great television? Yes. Do they read non-fiction? Some. But the novel – that great interior journey – seems to have been lost to them.
It wasn’t always this way.
The path from boyhood to manhood used to go something like this: Boys got dirty, played with plastic guns, disturbed bee hives, and wandered the streets of their neighborhoods with their buddies un-chaperoned. By adolescence, they were expected to be rowdy and wild – maybe dabbling in the rebel art of cigarette smoking, drawing a sharpie tattoo, and practicing the skill of talking girls into peeling off their panties (beginning with the whole “I’ll give you a cookie” approach and graduating to “Come on, baby, you’re just so beautiful –I need you!”).
Next, somewhere in their twenties, boys began dressing like men – assertively and with a sense of style that wasn’t strictly reserved for gay men and the odd metrosexual. A man learned how to play poker, how to dance, and how to unzip a dress.
Oh, and one more thing…a man read fiction.
In short, until fairly recently -sometime in the mid to late 1980s, I estimate – the kind of man boys aspired to be was culturally literate.
Playboy and Esquire used to feature fiction every month and a large cross-section of men felt compelled to read the latest by William Styron or Raymond Carver. Your average college-educated male knew damned well who won the Pulitzer and had an opinion as to who really should have gone home with the prize (even if he got that opinion from some other guy in a locker room).
But nowadays it’s the women’s publications like Elle and Oprah that feature Joan Didion, Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen. Men’s magazines have gone all Cosmo on us – Get Great Abs! Make Her Scream In Bed – For Real!
It is estimated some 80% of fiction readers today are women. The men who still read novels are to a large extent either thriller readers (i.e. troglodytes according to the cultured class) or soft, overly-sensitive men who read Margaret Atwood novels and feel a woman’s pain so acutely they need to go lie down.
A close male friend of mine – an extremely intelligent and otherwise cultured man – actually said he doesn’t read fiction because it’s “unserious.”
So, without further ado, here are my ten most persuasive arguments for why men need to start reading fiction again – STAT!
10. Fiction teaches you how to think rather than merely what to think, and this is one of the crucial differences between a leader and a follower. No matter how well done, TV and film do too much of the work for you. The curve of a woman’s face isn’t merely alluded to or described, but shown up close and often on an actress you’ve seen a dozen times in a similar role. A line is delivered the way the actor interprets the dialogue. But when we read, we are the interpreters, the masters of the experience.
9. It will make you better at your job.Why? Because good fiction, unlike the platitude-ridden business self-help genre, examines the way real human beings behave and react in a variety of situations. Want to understand the mind of a change-averse bureaucrat? Read James Thurber’s The Catbird Seat. Or how about the maneuverings of a power-hungry subordinate? Iago from Othello will give you something to chew on. And if you want to read about a boss who feels threatened by a talented subordinate, pick up my husband’s novel, Corporate America (#2 thriller on Amazon – what a man!). If you’re still shaking your head and don’t quite believe that fiction can help you succeed in your career, just take a look at Silicon Valley, where the most popular business book is The Fountainhead. Novel-reading seems to be working pretty well for all those billionaires over there.
8. Since so few men are reading fiction right now, you can claim some of the best literary quotes as your own and your (male) friends and colleagues will think you’re a genius!
7. Literature adds to reality. It does not simply describe it. (See? #8 works! And you thought I made that up, didn’t you? It was actually CS Lewis.) Nonfiction, the average male reader’s favorite “literature”, can teach you a great many things – like a cadaver can illuminate you about your body. But it cannot caress you with a turn of phrase, start a fire of heroic ideals, make you fall in love with the mortifying, saccharine emotion of a Harlequin Romance. Only fiction can do that.
6. Fiction can raise your testosterone levels. There is plenty of “men’s” literature that has an erotic element but doesn’t get all Fifty Shades on you. Anything by Milan Kundera can teach you about the art of seduction. What guy wouldn’t want to command a hot nurse to take off her clothes the way Tomas did in The Unbearable Lightness of Being? The Uncle Oswald books by Roald Dahl are also great literary rolls in the hay. If you want something stronger and are actually looking for erotica, read some of my friend TW Luedke’s books. They are every bit as dangerous as popping wheelies on a motorcycle.
5. Reading will make you a better citizen. Stories – not sound bytes – help you absorb politics in a way the punditocracy can’t. If you’re right leaning, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand will far better help you elucidate and express your heartfelt opinions than the pseudo-populists at Fox. If you’re left leaning? Try Upton Sinclair in place of the smarty-pants faux intellectuals at MSNBC.
4. To surrender your influence on the cultural landscape and on education – both of which are shaped in large part by fiction and fiction readers (i.e. women)- is simply wimpy.
3. Because in reading fiction, we are able to absorb a greater truth instead of an assemblage of facts. This is true when comparing the novel to the non-fiction book or to the film or television show. The difference between fiction and non-fiction is the difference between learning morals and learning manners. One will get you through a dinner party and the other will get you through life (and perhaps even the afterlife). The difference between reading a story and watching one on TV is the difference between making love to the love of your life and having a friend with benefits. Not knocking the latter, but…
2. The spoken and written word in the form of a fictional story has been as important, historically, in a man’s life journey as sports, trolling with friends, and becoming the master of his destiny. The novel has been an unfailing aid in his evolution – in learning to love, becoming a husband and a father, being a friend. Doing what is right and understanding the consequences of shirking his morals and ethics.
1. It’ll get you the women you want. And not just the ones who’ll have you.
If you don’t know where to even start – let me help you:
A Fable by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Macbeth, Henry V by William Shakespeare (yes, Shakespeare – don’t be a wuss)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Corporate America by Jack Dougherty (trust me, this is not just love talkin’ here)
The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
The assassination of US President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 had a profound effect on the history of the Cold War. At once suspicions abounded that the murder was the result of a conspiracy, a theory that is still held to by the majority of American citizens. The news that Kennedy's suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a communist who had defected to the Soviet Union for three years prior to the shooting increased fears that the Cold War had claimed its most prized victim.
The Velvet Revolution – that beautiful, most rare of events when a tyrannical government was actually overthrown by the largely peaceful protests of a populace – celebrated its 24th anniversary on Sunday, November 17th. I always take a little time on that day to say a prayer of thanks, but this year, somehow, I forgot.
So, I’m saying it now.
Thank you. Thank for democracy. Thank you for the lack of bloodshed. Thank you for the tears of joy. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank God for Indie Publishing – it is my opinion that we are far better off with it than without it. Is there a wider range of quality – undoubtedly. There are authors who are amateur, don’t properly edit their work, and put out a shoddy product. But I think that for the practiced reader, those are pretty easy to spot. All you have to do is have a look inside the book and read a page or two – which Amazon is very generous about. By and large, the real stinkers sink pretty quickly, too.
And you know, even if they don’t and there’s a market for the work… so be it.
There are also hugely successful and highly professional authors who do a far better job publishing their own work than their (usually former) traditional publishing houses ever did. While traditional publishing does some things very, very well, marketing (unless you’re a bestselling author) is not one of them. It’s also a very parochial business filled mostly with people who went to the same schools and have similar tastes and a similar outlook. That’s ok, too, but it can be limiting in terms of the offering they provide. I can give countless examples of this, but the one that really stings when I recount it to writers, agents, and their like is when a very big editor at a very big publishing house actually told me that no one outside of New York reads. He said that even if they did, he didn’t care what people in, say, Texas, wanted to read.
No joke. This is almost an exact quote. And he did give the Texas example (sorry Texans).
Indie publishing, much like Indie films and Indie anything, appeals to a broader range of people and preferences. Such is the case when an industry gets put in the hands of the people. Publishing, for good or ill – and I think it’s for the good – has become like E bay. And like with E bay, it is important to help the bad actors either get it right or get out of the game.
I prefer the former, but I’m fine with the latter, too.
Enter my guest, today. Mr. Thomas Rydder. Thomas has something to say and I want to back him up on this.
Recently, Thomas was approached by a group of writers who said they give 5 star reviews to other writers in exchange for the same. Thomas said no thank you, and outed the group on his website, saying that he didn’t think this practice was right. He finds it dishonest, and like most authors prefers to get real reviews from real readers.
Almost immediately, his first novel, The Clearing, was bombarded with several one-star reviews from “reviewers” who had neither bought the book (at least there was no record of the purchase on Amazon) nor, presumably, read it. The bogus reviews were usually one-liners that began with “Eh, I’ll pass” and “Umm…what?” and “Certainly not Twilight!” Stuff like that.
Now, anyone who is either in publishing (traditional or indie) or is well acquainted with a writer or writers has probably at some time or another felt some pressure to write a review for a friend. One that was perhaps too generous, as you wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. In traditional publishing, apart from the Amazon review, this is often done in the form of a blurb on the back of the book. You know, the exaggerated praise from other, often better known authors who might be quoted as saying something like, “John Jones Smith has created a story that is penetrating, elegiac in scope, blah, blah, blah.”
Don’t faint, but it’s not uncommon for these blurbs to be written by the author of the work, not the famous author who they’re attributed to. These things, unfortunately, do happen.
But, to me, that is different from an organized review group that promises 5 star reviews.
When an author friend asks me to read and write a review of his book – for one, I actually do read it – and for another, it is my choice as a reader/reviewer as to whether I give him the high marks. It’s not a foregone conclusion. Nor would it necessarily be an expectation by the author that I lavish their book with a 5-star, gushing review. They know they’re taking a chance when they’re asking me to read their novel, and they’re honest enough and believe in the quality of their work enough, to take that chance.
Thomas thought the angry writers might get all aflutter again if we talk about this here, but I think integrity is worth a few insults and I stand by my work. I stand by Thomas’ work.
Maybe it’s time, too, as an industry that is now, essentially, owned by the people working in it, to talk about ethics in a straightforward and concise manner.
In other words, let’s spell out some standards here. All of these bogus reviews are starting to bring us all down.
Thomas, what are your standards for reviewing a book, whether written by an author you know or do not know? Are they the same?
Hi Victoria, and let me first thank you for having me…I’m thrilled to be here
Let me preface my answer with my view on reviews. They, along with word-of-mouth opinion, are the single most important type of advertisement your book can have, period. I don’t care if you get on rooftops and yell, buy a radio station, or email the entire population of Texas, your book’s sales will stall without good, solid, honest reviews.
Notice I said honest, in reference to the offer I had a few weeks ago. If you’re a real author – meaning one who writes to the best of their ability, designs their book as professionally as possible, goes through all the editing and re-writes, and then publishes – then when you get a review, good or bad, you get something out of it. And in some ways, you get more out of a bad review in the long run, meaning you learn what you might improve on, from a writing standpoint.
If you are a genuine author, then you don’t expect something for nothing, either. You stand by your work, good or bad, and let the chips fall where they may. And you sure as hell don’t trade reviews simply for the sake of getting more sales.
Reviews aren’t personal, or shouldn’t be. Their purpose is to tell the rest of the civilized world what to expect when they pick up your book. These are the things I ask myself when I’m reviewing a book:
1. Was the book well-edited?
2. Were there grammatical or spelling errors?
Note: these first two are mostly for self-published material. A book that hasn’t been edited or proof-read holds up a red flag that the writer doesn’t have enough pride in their work to check – and that’s a very bad sign.
3. Did the plot enmesh you in the writer’s make-believe world, and why?
4. Were the characters believable, did they engage you, what emotions did the story bring out?
5. What about the book did you like, and not like?
What are your standards for reviewing genre fiction vs more literary endeavors?
You know, I don’t believe the two types are as far apart as one might think. In literary fiction, the plot takes a back seat to the characters. The most important factor in literary fiction is what is happening in the thoughts, minds, and desires of the characters as they move within the story. I’d like to point out that really great genre fiction is character-driven as well, but where they most differ are in the underlying cultural expectations and social issues which influence the characters. I truly think that a reviewer can take the same approach and effectively review either variety.
Tell us about your experience with Indie and small press publishing.
I was fortunate to have been picked up by a small press near London, Greyhart Press, and am richer for the experience. Under Mr. Tim Taylor, chief cook and bottle washer for our little endeavor, I’ve learned much about the whole publishing process. On the other hand, I’ve heard many horror stories from others about the way they were treated by small publishers.
Also, like you, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and mingle with many fine Indie writers that wouldn’t go trad (traditional) publishing if you poured gasoline over their heads and lit a cigarette. Vice versa with some trad writers I know.
If you enjoy the freedom that Indie writing gives you, then by all means, have at it. If, on the other hand, you have the opportunity to write under the roof of a publishing company, take a look at that. There are very real advantages to both of those avenues. I would say, though, to take a careful look when you search out publishers. Not all firms are interested in the author, and a signed contract is binding.
Tell us about your new book.
Ah…my babies. I’m going to go all crazy on you and tell you about both my books. My debut werewolf thriller “The Clearing” came out this past March, and has received some great reviews. I did have a few that gave me poor marks in one particular aspect of the book, and I took heed. I’ve just re-released it, with improvements made in those areas, and I have high hopes for its success.
Basically, it’s about a small town in western Pennsylvania – quaint, simple, peaceful. That is, until The Elder takes up residence. The Elder has an agenda – one that is 1,000 years old, and cannot be denied. One that will change the lives of many – and end the lives of any who interfere.
Then we have my new book, “Restless Souls: 3 dark fables.” I wrote it while I was ensnared in the editing process for The Clearing. It’s three ghost stories (one novella, two rather long short stories) centered on spirits who have remained in our world, and their unfortunate – and bloody – interactions with some rather unlucky folks.
1. “Do Unto Others” (short story) – Jeremy is a street hood, lawless and unchained. When he is wronged by a local businessman, it becomes his mission to seek revenge. But his new enemy has friends – ones that don’t take kindly to intruders.
2. “Colors” (short story) – Harrison Street. attorney, biker wannabe, coward. When he finds the bike of his dreams, it seems too good to be true. It is.
3. “Simona Says” (novella) – Simona has had it rough. Death, disenchantment, and disappointment are all part of her life. She wants to be happy for a change, and she’s willing to do just about anything to find some. Anything.
Victoria, thanks so much for having me on. I had a blast!
Restless Souls -
The Clearing -
I was born in 1957 in a small town in Western Pennsylvania that had – and still has – one traffic light. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there, and we had few neighbors, so I learned to play quite a bit of make-believe – soldiers, cowboys and Indians, that kind of thing. At the same time, I loved to read and watch old movies. On Saturdays, my dad played in a country western band, and I stayed up to wait for him. It was during that stretch that I discovered the horror movie. You know the ones I mean. Karloff, Chaney, Lee. The masters, right?
Fast forward 40 years. I’m now the project manager for a small civil engineering firm in picturesque Charleston, South Carolina with my lovely wife and four rescue pets, two dogs, two cats. Oh – and eight feral cats outside that put up with us because we give them two squares a day.
Anyway, since childhood, I’ve loved to create. I played trumpet, sang, even dabbled in genealogy. Nothing quite did it for me. Over the years, I’d composed quite a few term papers and theses (there are a few ex-teenagers in this world who owe their English grades to yours truly), and unfailingly earned an “A”. My wife knew this, and one day just suggested that I try writing.
What the hey, I thought. So I sat down and found a writing site called Hubpages. Nice little site, and I started getting the basics of writing a little from some of the inhabitants. I wrote a short story, and everyone liked it. So, I wrote another one. Except it kept growing, and I kept getting more ideas, and it lengthened to 20 thousand words, then 30, then 40. By the time I sat back, I had the rough draft of my first novel, except back then it was called “Werewolves and Flapjacks”. Somewhere along the way I decided to submit my work (now called “The Clearing) to three publishers. I was turned down twice, and miraculously was accepted by the gentleman who gently rules this site, Mr. Tim Taylor. And the rest, as they say, is history. By the way, you need to like Tim…he’s a great guy, and I owe him much, which can never be repaid.
I now have a second book availabe – “Restless Souls: 3 dark fables” – an anthology (novella and two short stories) of ghost stories, and life is grand.
Even though I make wise cracks about all of it, this is all like living a dream – and I don’t plan on waking up for a very long time.
*Warning: While I always endeavor to handle even adult topics tastefully on Cold, the subject of the following discussion may be offensive to some readers. If you are one of those readers, please join me again next week. Thank you.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about standards in Indie publishing, or as it will increasingly be called – just plain old publishing. And over the next couple of weeks, I want to talk a little bit about the importance of creating and maintaining standards in the wholly democratic industry that publishing has become.
I think it’s imperative that we all talk about what is acceptable, what is not, what is ethical, what is shady, and most importantly, what benefits us all – writers and readers alike.
Enter Travis Luedke (TW Luedke to readers), who is an incredibly talented, versatile, all around credit to Indie publishing.
Really, he’s a pro.
His Nightlife series is a lollapalooza of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll that mixes glitzy and glamorous city living (in glitzy and glamorous places like Paris, London, Vegas) with gory and bad-ass violent vampire lore. And recently, it and almost every other erotic title at WH Smith and Kobo UK (with the exception of 50 Shades of Grey, which apparently is just your average romance, according to online retailers), has been taken off the virtual shelves.
Are The Nightlife stories outrageous?
Are they erotic?
Are they for everyone?
But are they well done and tailor-made for an adult audience hungry for books that actually have a great story, in addition to being filled with fun and dirty sex?
The Nightlife series has never pretended to be anything different. For what it’s worth, except for a few vampires, and crime-thriller plots, there’s not a whole lot in The Nightlife that you won’t find in 50 Shades. But 50 Shades is being treated as an exception. And it’s being treated as an exception exclusively because it makes so much money.
It seems to me, that if you’re going to put erotica back in the proverbial brown paper bag, that ALL erotica should get the bag. But I have a very heavy disposition towards free speech – even free speech I don’t like one bit. And I’m also a fan of consistency as it is the cornerstone of principled behavior.
So, in the interest of having a dialogue about setting standards in Indie publishing, I thought I’d ask Travis some questions:
First, is there anything in the erotica genre that you, personally, find offensive and think shouldn’t be there?
It’s really splitting hairs on many issues. For example: were-shifter romance~erotica. There are readers who consider some were-shifter sex scenes to be right on the edge of bestiality. Obviously, book-banning activists are focused on bestiality, but they are targeting adult romance featuring people that shift to the form of animals.
Of course, I don’t advocate, condone or promote any kind of erotic material that would be a true representation of bestiality. But consenting adults, with paranormal-shape-shifting attributes, are not even close to the same thing as having sexual congress with, say, a sheep.
And I definitely don’t condone any form of incest or rape that is WRITTEN FOR TITILLATION. You have to take these matters in context.
What was the purpose of the scene?
How was it written?
Does it move the plot and storyline with horrific character development elements?
Example: Flowers in the Attic includes rape and incest, yet it is shelved as horror, or psychological thriller.
Why are these things OK?
Because none of these events are written in a romantic~erotic context.
So, when you start looking at the issue of these taboos, you must have the proper perspective and context.
If taboo material is written obviously erotic~romantic, then that is considered bad or wrong. But today, in adult erotica, especially BDSM, there is a category of writers/readers who revolve around fiction with elements of rape/fantasy. It’s called NON-CON (non-consensual). There is a certain subset of adults who enjoy reading this genre. I suppose it’s a way to explore things that are just too wild and dangerous to do in reality.
However, this is a very small minority by percentage of erotic~romance readers, probably down in the 2-3% range. And there are not many authors willing to cater to these readers. It’s a niche market.
I have harsh, abusive scenes in my books, where women are mistreated or even raped. These are scenes written as character insight and background, horrific and appalling. When I write about two characters falling in love (or lust as may be the case), you know the difference, it’s in every line of the scene.
When book-banners start waving the flag of righteous indignation, they need to make sure they are talking about taboo romance~erotic scenes and material, and not horrific~thriller scenes that might be included within a romance~erotic novel. It’s an easy mistake to make – especially when standing in the forum of public opinion amongst an angry crowd.
Personally, I am not interested in taboo erotic material as a reader or writer. But, that doesn’t mean I want to slam it. BDSM fiction is boldly pushing the boundaries, with daring literature that is, in many cases, very well written, compelling, and scorching-hot.
In real life and in fiction, practitioners of BDSM ride the line of consent, mixing pain and pleasure. The average person might consider this bad or wrong, but for the adventurous, they discover unique and invigorating experiences.
I do not practice BDSM, but I have touched on it, briefly, skimming the tip of that iceberg, in the Nightlife Series.
What, in your opinion, is the state of erotic literature today?
I think erotic literature is in the midst of an explosive growth, evolving into a revolution of sorts in the world of fiction (and non-fiction).
Fifty Shades of Grey took a theme that was dangerous, sexy, somewhat violently sexy and fused it with the romance genre. That influence is bleeding over into other genres as well. Christian Grey and Anastasia have created a new ‘norm,’ a new paradigm for romantic fiction. And so, today, we are seeing the lines blurred between erotica and romance.
You could easily pick up a contemporary romance novel, and find yourself in the middle of an edgy, smoking-hot erotic scene. You could also purchase an erotic novel only to realize it’s basically romance with a more detailed expression of sex scenes.
And erotic sex scenes are becoming widely accepted in fiction, even outside of erotica and romance. Publishers and editors are instructing their contracted authors to write more steamy sex scenes, because its popular, because it sells.
So, in your opinion, erotica has evolved from the old days of pulp novels with names like “Spoiled Slut?”
I have heard it said that early erotica was basically porn on paper. I don’t really know, apart from having read a couple of short stories in Playboy.
I can tell you today’s erotic fiction is hot, not always because of sex but because of sexual tension and attraction between two characters. It’s about the emotional investment a reader feels in these people. If readers care about the lives and the intimate moments between the characters, then you have arousal.
A porn classic like Debbie Does Dallas doesn’t work on paper, because describing the physical act means nothing if there’s no emotional investment in Debbie, or any of the men in her life.
So, yes, erotica is, in many ways, a more enhanced version of romance. Its romance with the bedroom doors wide open.
What, besides the obvious, drew you to write stories with erotic elements?
I have always been a fan of escapist fiction like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert R. McCammon, and Peter Straub. I found the horror/thriller novels centered on the supernatural were my favorites.
It was Brian Lumley who taught me the dark, wicked beauty of vampires. And then a few years later I discovered Anne Rice. I have always loved The Vampire Chronicles, but it bothered me that these creatures never had any sex.
Then I found Laurell K. Hamilton, and discovered an entire world of dark erotic~romantic fiction. Now, I’m a total addict of vampire novels and films, and that’s what I write. But I have my cake and eat it too. My vampires live in the real nightlife of today, back alleys, ghettos, strip clubs, casinos, drugs, prostitution, escorts, mafia, cartel.
I like it dark, gritty, violent and sensual, with thriller intensity. And I blend all these elements into my own wicked cocktail.
Let’s consider the point of view of someone who might be more conservative in their standards. Why do you think there remains an objection to erotic literature, even if sex has been so heavily mainstreamed since the 1960s (assuming, of course, that it is being read by adults)?
Though I will surely offend someone (if you’re not offending anyone, then you’re just not living), I think most objection to erotic literature is based on the religious foundations of our culture. Judeo-Christian religions paint sexuality with a very black brush.
You’ve heard the old joke, Jews do guilt and Catholics do confession. Hence, erotic literature is considered a guilty pleasure by both readers and writers.
So, after having enraged half of the world’s religions, I will add that it seems, in general, our views on sexuality are changing and evolving.
In other words, we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket.
Why, in your opinion, does erotica belong in literature?
I think erotic scenes are the natural conclusion of passionate romance. All the great stories of our time involve passionate romance. I don’t mean milquetoast “I care for you deeply Martha,” I am talking visceral, primal passion – that “I want to pin you against the wall and make love till neither of us can walk,” kind of passion.
And why should the bedroom doors stay closed in our great love stories? Erotic literature usually embodies the fantasy of an ideal lover who does everything right.
How often do you get that?
I imagine we could all stand to improve our performance in the bedroom. Or have fun trying. Is that something worth researching and writing about? Worthy of quality literature?
Sex is a natural part of our lives. A healthy sex life makes happy couples and stable families. Sex should be celebrated. Literature should be shining a light on this glorious expression of love and passion.
Despite my almost unnatural love for the thriller – especially the spy thriller – my favorite novel of all time is actually Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is, in my humble opinion, the most highly original and genuinely terrifying story I have ever read. Bram Stoker has brought into the public consciousness a character so confounding, erudite, and manly in the classical sense, that I think it’s safe to say that he’s the only monster that makes women want to both scream and swoon.
The whole vampire genre has given new meaning to the Bible’s warning to resist “the glamor of evil.” It has turned us into undead junkies and actually convinced us that becoming a murdering, blood sucking, night-dwelling, hell-bound, semi-immortal creature might not be so bad. Not if we get to spend much of that time cozying up to the count in his coffin.
Dracula looks a woman straight in the eyes and stares blatantly, lustfully at her body. He runs his lips softly over the skin of her neck. His whispers his needs into her ear. Salacious moves aside, his manners are courtly and well, perfect. According to legend, he can’t even enter your house unless you invite him in.
He’s a pretty good dresser, too, in an old fashioned sort of way. And can he dance? You bet! No white man’s overbite there.
But I think what makes Dracula such a fine ladies man in spite of his obvious limitations – namely being a demon from hell who wants to drain you of all of your blood – is something many of us women are loathe to admit. It’s what makes the modern man – schooled in the art of sensitive conduct – want to slam his fist into a table and scream “Unfair!” and makes liberated women from all over seethe with righteous anger.
It’s that like it or not, when Dracula unbuttons the top button of our lacy nightgown and says in that deep, commanding voice of his, “You will cross land or sea to do my bidding,” even the most strident of us want to whisper, “Okay.”
I have a particular fascination with propaganda art. It’s themes are often so artless and transparent, and yet, there is no better effective tool for propagandists. I’ll be posting more about propaganda art in a few weeks, but in the meantime, please have a look at this blog post from the always excellent Espionart.