Friday, April 10, 2009

Link Proliferation: Chewed, swallowed.

Easter Kong

Here's some beautiful holiday-themed art from pop surrealist Todd Schorr.

The Zombie Holocaust Began 3 Days Ago, and Nobody Noticed

Actual headline from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Metairie man says stranger chewed, swallowed after taking bite out of his arm.

Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Some more art stuff.

Currently on display in the "Abstract Thought Is A Warm Puppy" show, at the Center for Contemporary Non-Objective Art in Brussels, is Esther Stocker's short, silent video "Sehen als 1", which appears to show somebody writing on their eye. Sadly, I can only find stills on the Interwebs.

Available in Regular and Mint

From the McNally Jackson site. I detect the fell hand of Dustin in this matter.

Recession Proof the Fright Biz?

Perhaps horror could learn a few tricks from the bodice rippers. Despite the widespread carnage the Great Depression 2.0 is causing to the culture industry, apparently romance publishers are making a killing. Megham Daum, of the LA Times, drops some numbers:

Harlequin, still the biggest name in serial romances, saw a $3-million gain, year to year, in North American sales in the fourth quarter of 2008 (by contrast, book sales in the general marketplace are down slightly).

It's so easy to poke fun at contemporary romance novels that there's really no sport in it. The plots, by definition, are formulaic; the prose manages to be at once overwrought and underdeveloped; the covers, well, they're where that famous, flaxen-haired slab of manhood named Fabio got his start. But romances have long dominated sales of mass-market paperbacks (which, in turn, dominate sales of books in general). According to statistics from Romance Writers of America, an organization of more than 10,000 published and aspiring novelists, romances generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007. It's even been said (granted, by a Harlequin author) that, worldwide, someone buys a Harlequin book every four seconds.

How does this genre – which, along with true crime, might be the only genre with less cred in straight world than horror – keep bringing in the bucks?

1. Stay cheap.

It's not exactly a surprise that the romance novel business would be pretty recession-proof; as bad as things get, a lot of people -- OK, mostly women -- can still afford a $5 paperback.

2. Serve as many niche groups as possible.

But, in parsing the titles listed on Harlequin's website, it struck me that the real reason serial romances are thriving in a desiccated economy is not just because they're the ultimate escape fantasies but because, in their own way, they are that Holy Grail of marketing and business -- they offer something for everyone. Among Harlequin's 10 imprints are dozens of categories and sub-categories, including medical romance, Christian romance, paranormal romance, suspense romance and even NASCAR romance (titles include "Checkered Past" and "Black Flag, White Lies"). Unexpected pregnancy scenarios are popular across categories ("Forced Wife, Royal Love Child," "The Heart Surgeon's Baby Surprise"), as are single-mother situations ("The Aristocrat and the Single Mom"). I even saw one book about an unwed pregnant woman courted by a man who isn't the father of her baby but wants to be. He also happens to be super hot.

3. Be escapists in an emotionally relevant way.

In most of these novels, the heroine is in a position of not really being able to trust the intentions of her love (or lust) object. And although she desperately wants a happily-ever-after with a cardiologist/secretly wealthy ranch hand/oil tycoon/Ralph Fiennes, she can't shake her fear that she's being lied to. And yet she also can't allow herself to believe that her spicy encounters are anything more than a house of cards that will eventually leave her destitute and alone.

You don't have to like romance novels -- or even cardiologists or ranch hands -- to know what that kind of uncertainty feels like. All you have to do is follow the financial news. In fact, given that many Americans are feeling as distrustful of the bank bailout and the economic stimulus package as Harlequin heroines feel about their suitors, maybe the term "escape fantasy" is a misnomer. Maybe these books are recession-proof not because they offer an alternative to uncertainty but because they reflect it back at us -- with a lot of sex thrown in (and a happy ending).

And End with a Big Musical Number

Here's Still Flyin's insanely happy-making "Good Thing It's a Ghost Town Around Here."

1 comment:

Coop said...

Check out "A Patchwork Of Flesh" blog for details and photos of a Frankenstein art project.