Yours, Hypothetically is the new literary satire column by Rory Squire. Check it out every other Friday starting November 13.
To The Girl in the Reg Whom I Spied Hiding Her Danielle Steel Behind Proust:
Lady, you have been apprehended. Although you tried to sandwich your secret between Sodome et Gomorrhe’s pages, Passion’s Promise could not be concealed! But please, don’t be ashamed! Honestly, the choice was clear. Who would willingly commit themselves to thousands of pages of Proust when they could instead indulge in the erotic thrill of Danielle Steele’s opus?
Let us review the plot:
“Smart, beautiful, and very rich, Kezia Saint Martin leads two lives [but of course]: one as a glamorous socialite jetting between the poshest [obnoxious diction] places in Europe and America; the other, under a false name, as a dedicated journalist committed to justice and her profession…Until she meets Lucas Johns, a bold social crusader—and an ex-con. Their passion is incredible [and DANGEROUS!]…and DANGEROUS.” Oh.
You see, Kezia—you don’t mind if I call you Kezia, do you?—we’re on the same page, you and I. No, I’m not referring to page 246—when our heroine and her convict finally consummate their love (on a billiards table?), but rather to our mutual understanding of the role sexy shit shamelessly plays in the literary world. My own hometown’s populace was three times outnumbered by cows, and while this fact may seem at first to be a complete nonsequitur, it ain’t: Crap erotica was designed for places like that. When there is naught but the earth that needs a good hoeing, and diddly but the poultry for companionship on those cold winter nights, many a farmer (or farmer’s wife) has been forced to pick up a book out of sheer desperation. Knowing, as I do, something of sexually repressed individuals, I figured it was only a matter of time before something of the Steel variety popped up at the U of C. After all, what we lack in small-town sensibility we compensate for in sexual timorousness. Luckily, as we all know, there is no dilemma that cannot be resolved through reading. Right, Kezia?
This attitude is perhaps responsible for the billion-dollar industry that is the romance novel trade. The industry to which you, you naughty Proust-bluffing girl, are supporting.
For as long as there has been speech and sex, there has been erotica. We had it in Greece (μπορείτε να δοκιμάσετε πάλι). We had it in France (nous avions beaucoup de truc dérangé en France). We even had a bit of it in Britain (and then never, ever, again, by God!). And then we had it in France again (il y a toujours de truc foiré en France). Nowadays, we laud the Marquis de Sade as a perverse genius, and D.H. Lawrence as a champion of human sexual and spiritual expression; Anaïs Nin, a darling of the feminist revolution. In their respective times, however, their works were not only considered to be in poor taste—they were also illegal.
But Kezia, as you and I both know, Danielle Steel is not literature, nor shall she ever be. The only thing that’s criminal in her novel is her leading man, and probably most of Chapter 12 in the state of Virginia. However, she certainly fits the category of sexy filth. So read on, I say! It’s cold here, and—although I daresay Proust would disagree—good men are hard to find.