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Thursday, July 21, 2005


The Romentics

So I'm sitting here watching NBC Today's appalling Matt Lauer and Katy Couric do their characteristically ham fisted number on the latest London bombings.

I can always tell when La Couric's out of her depth and wants to signal gravitas: she perches fashionably-framed glasses on her cute retroussé nose.

Until some actual facts are known, commentators seem to be grinding on about stiff upper lips and good old British stoicism. Does it not occur to outside media that, deferrals of success apart, it's less a case of Blitz-type fortitude than the majority of Londoners not being emoting wets and weeds given to keeping in touch with their inner basket cases.

Anyway, my eye was caught by Miriam Gross's reference to phlegm and mawk in the latest Spectator Diary.

Before I go any further, no, I *don't* know what that signage up there has to do with anything.

I did a Google on "stoic and phlegmatic" and that's what came up. Rather a good fit with Julie's Seat Belt Sign, so God bless the freedom of bloggery that we can all share this pragmatic caveat.

speccie coverSpeaking of sharing, I'm sure there's a royalty rule against reproducing hefty chunks, but I blame the Speccie's subscription department. Let them pay any fee as penance for not getting their act together over my now lapsed subscription. To every final demand, I *told* them that it was a case of, "The mag to me in Seattle; the *invoice* to my Mama in Sloane Street."

They never managed it, so of course I'm now deprived of my weekly fix and reduced to staving off cold turkey with non-subscriber crumbs that fall from the online table.

Anyway, back to the excellent Dr Gross, who turns out not to be writing about Blighty bulldog spirit but certain lavender literati here on *my* side of the Pond.

Damn'd funny, anyway ...

"During last Thursday’s two-minute silence I was in Knightsbridge, standing on Brompton Road. When it was over, the hundreds of office workers and shoppers who had come out into the bright sunshine broke into spontaneous applause. I found myself enthusiastically joining in, to my own surprise. I am usually rather put off by public displays of emotion, but on this occasion the applause somehow underlined the depth of feeling. It also emphasis ed that the silence had not just been observed because the government had called for it. I wondered whether the same thing had happened in other parts of the city. Londoners have been criticised both for being too phlegmatic in response to the bombings (foreign commentators have compared our reaction unfavorably with that of the Spanish after the Madrid bombs) and for being too mawkish (‘If we had had a two-minute silence every time a V1 landed 60 years ago we would have lost the war’). But it seemed to me that the people among whom I was standing had a sense of what was appropriate which avoided both extremes.

On a visit to America recently I discovered the Romentics. No, this is not a misprint. It’s a new literary genre — romantic fiction for men, gay men to be precise. Romentic novelettes are based on the same basic formula as the traditional heterosexual romance (which, incidentally, accounts for 49 per cent of all US paperback sales). The plot must never deviate — two people meet, they fall in love, complications and jealousies ensue, but they are eventually resolved and by the end of the story the lovers are heading for marriage and happiness ever after. Till now, gay fiction has, on the whole, been a depressing affair, filled with couples who can’t stay together, with suicides and with deaths from Aids. But now that gay marriage is very much in the news, homosexual men are apparently pining for the kind of emotional wallow which ‘straight’ readers — mainly women, of course — have enjoyed for so long. Instead of ‘he clasped her in his strong arms and pressed her soft yielding body against him’, we now have, ‘Troy let the towel on his waist drop. The morning light falling into the room put his abs and pecs and nipples into perfect relief ...he had none of the false bulk of a steroid queen.’ I’m quoting from the most ambitious romentic offering to date, Hot Sauce by Scott Pomfret and Scott Whittier, which came out two or three weeks ago. As a former addict of torrid tales about doctors and nurses, I’m all in favour of this new trend. In the words of one American commentator, the playwright Paul Rudnick, ‘True equality demands equal trash.’ "

There's bags more like it where that came from - a truly excellent magazine, well worth some genteel Islander treating themselves to a subscription. Knowing how conscientiously we all recyle, it shouldn't be too messy an operation for me to pop round and dumpster dive for the used copy.

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