Books, 2005-01-19, 2:21 p.m.
Just before the holidays, I needed to read to relax. Not read good things or things that required any thought. But the trashiest of the trash, the lowest of the low, the worst in my bookroom. Actually, I didn't go to quite the lowest, but did browse at the bottom for a while. I'm talking about Judith Krantz and V.C. Andrews.
See, I have a good book collection. I have lots of well written, good for your body and mind books. And then there's the crap. To my defence, most was bought when I was young or second hand, but I have it. And, to be honest, I don't find Krantz all that bad, for reasons I'm going to explain now.
See, even though this was don't need to think reading, it got me thinking. How are the womyn portrayed. In each one, at least one female is the main character (Krantz tends to weave several storylines together, so you might have the main and the secondary main characters). There are some series within each authors selection - V.C. Andrews is all series (execept for one novel) and Krantz has the Scruples-Scruples II-Lovers trio. And you would think that the books of Victoria (or is it Virginia?) Andrews and Judith Krantz were written by females.
However, excepting the non series book, the first series (the Dollengangers - the flowers in the attic series) and part of the second series (the Casteel Series - Heaven series), V.C. Andrews books are written by a ghost writer, who is a male. In the beginning there was a big 'In the light of her passing....' message at the front of the novels, however, the further it got from the death the smaller the message became. Now, I know I saw it, but it's not prominant. So people picking up one of the books might not realize about the ghost writer. And this makes a big difference to the writing.
In Krantz, the women are assertive. They have lovers that support them, but they are wildly beautiful, often rich and make good and bad choices. There are lots of sex scenes - female - male and female-female more than male-male, but there are some of all three. The women like sex, and if they don't like it with the partner they are with, you learn of their very active masterbatory life. They don't put shame on sex. Yes, there is one story where a girl got pregnant with slight insertion of a penis and considered herself a virgin when she was married and didn't tell her husband about the baby, and he was oldfashioned and liked that she was a virgin, but in that case, it is discussed how wrong he was. As well, when a women is dumped because she was, as she put it, a 'Great Slut' and slept with several guys, with her husband finding out about this after it had ended (it ended before their marriage, he found out after), his wrongness is also discussed. No it's not perfect, but the women have sexlives and are not called to task on them and punished for sexual desires.
In V.C.Andrews however, there is very little sexual desire. This applies to mainly the books written by the ghostwriter, but there are some indications of it in the V.C.s work as well. I'm speaking mainly of the bulk of the franchise - the work by the ghost writer. Usually the girl is raped at a young age by either a step brother or an uncle, or someone she knows was (when he tried to make the franchise more modern and placed it at a D.C. Ghetto (I think) with an african-american family, the sister was raped and killed by a gang). Usually a poor girl is found to be rich when her true identity is shown. She then goes and lives with her real family, perhaps is artistic and goes to study her art, and then marries. She might have a love affair that goes wrong before the marriage. Usually she is hated by her real family, or at least most of it, and has to use her wiles to survive. The series are often split into five books - three with the main character, the fourth with her daughter and the fifth about either her mother or grandmother. Generally the character in the fourth novel is very loved and is dealing with situations caused by their mothers life or a good person in a bad place, and the fifth usually tries to explain why that particular character was as she was.
In V. C. Andrews books, virginity, sexuality and rape are used quite librally. The females are usually unknowing in sexual matters and don't seduce. If they do seduce, it's their husbands and is a return to a place where they first kissed , when they were scared teenagers. Words such as hardness are used and very seldom can I remember the use of the word penis, much less vagina or cunt (cunt and pussy are used often in Krantz, and often vagina, cock, penis and others. There may be a few manhoods thrown in there, but it is acknowledged that there is a name for yoursexual organs and that not everyone calls it by the medical term). Often the characters are afraid of sex. The Ghostwriter seems to follow the idea that if males do it they're studs, but females are sluts, not ever using the term slut. Sexuality is not an issue, neither is senuality. Or perhaps they are issues in their nonentities.
The characters seem to let things happen to them rather than cause them to happen, and are often overwhelmed by circumstances and need a male to help them deal with them. Or the agressor dies. Things happen, the characters live through it.
Krantz writes fantastical novels where people are beautiful, thin, rich and sparkling. Andrews writes them poor and finding family, pretty, indecisive and thin (ok, we can talk about the sex issue, but the size issue is still there). However, krantz writes them real - they do everything a real person would do and get messy in the process. The books aren't literature, but the characters aren't that bad.
Of course, I might read them again and change my mind. But this rant kept going through my head and now, I've presented it for yours.