Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Grace Teague isn't my real name

Grace Teague isn’t my real name, it’s a collection of inside jokes and literary references. Just like my writing! (I hope not.)
The first name, I’ll explain right now. I stole it right from Grace Metalious.
I read Metalious’ novel, Peyton Place, in college. The book was out of print so we all had work with an unwieldy stack of photocopies, which should tell you a little bit about how long ago I went to school.  Even though I was an English major, this particular book wasn’t assigned in a literature class—it was a window into the history of the nineteen-fifties.
This book caused a huge sensation upon its publication. The opening line doesn’t hold back: 
“Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay.”  
It stays with you and is so beautifully put together it makes you forget for a second you’ve just read a collection of uncomfortable stereotypes.  The whole story is like that, which makes it genuinely indicative of its time, but painfully dated.
This book offended me at the time I read it, and has never sat well with me since. It wasn’t just the rape scene that is played for romance and ends with the victim and the perpetrator happily married, or the implication that having a mom who was too affectionate would make a boy gay, or even the queasily racist back story of the town. The whole thing was designed completely to provoke.  This is some seriously overheated prose that makes the journalist in me want to edit.
Yet, I can still remember passages of text even though I read it more than fifteen years ago.  This book is kind of brilliant in its own way. I think Metalious was a talented writer who told a story about the private lives of women that hadn’t been told in that way before.
This quote from a 2006 Vanity Fair article by Michael Callahan says it all:
"She was a totally unbridled, free, glorious spirit," says Lynne Snierson, the daughter of Grace's longtime attorney, Bernard Snierson. "I didn't know any other woman like her. Grace swore, a lot, and she drank, a lot, and she had lots of guys around her. She got married and divorced and had affairs. And she talked about sex and she talked about real life and she didn't filter it. I didn't know any other woman who was like that in the 50s." 
Metalious was an outsider; well-read but never able to continue her education after high school, a housewife who married young and lived in a small town in New Hampshire.  She was a tragic figure as well. Her success led to divorce, she lost custody of her kids, squandered every penny she made from her writing and drank herself to death by the age of 39.
So why take her name?
I guess I wanted to pay tribute to one of the trailblazers in the genre. I am lucky enough to be able to write about stuff that interests me: woman stuff, relationship stuff, sex stuff. Even though there are a lot more woman now writing with Metalious' frankness, there's still the fear of backlash. Peyton Place was published in 1956, but I still feel the need to use an assumed name. 
Make of that what you will.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Do you want to hear about the first time I saw a naked man?

Do you want to hear about the first time I saw a naked man? 

Of course you do!

It was actually in the film, A Room with a View. My poor mother rented it because it seemed like the most innocuous movie of all time. I mean, come on: E. M. Forester adaptation! Merchant/Ivory Production!  Helena Bonham Carter playing a character named Lucy Honeychurch! How could something like that backfire?

Quite easily, actually.

We were at my mom’s cousin’s house. My mom’s cousin is her best friend. For the sake of protecting the innocent, let’s say her name is Dame Maggie Smith. I imagine they thought that we children would go upstairs and play while they watched the grown up, sophisticated movie downstairs. Of course, this did not happen. Myself, my younger sister and Dame Maggie Smith’s trio of kids, all under the age of nine, watched this lushly produced version of a classic Victorian novel. I don’t think I paid attention to much except the pretty dresses until a scene with three of the male leads skinny dipping came on.

Oh my God.
Cue the giggle bomb.

My cousin stole the remote from her mother. She kept rewinding and rewinding it so we could see Simon Callow’s flaccid, floppy penis bounce up and down over and over again. According to IMDB, Julian Sands and Rupert Graves were the other naked guys. I didn’t pay as much attention to them because they were younger and a lot less silly-looking.

For years afterward we tormented my mother every time she wanted to rent something at the video store. (I am showing my age, in that I lived during a time where video stores were a thing that existed.) I don’t think she was allowed to pick a movie for at least five or six years for fear that her prurient tastes would show through and we’d be subjected to more full-frontal male nudity. If you know my mom, you’d know how mortifying that must have been for her. She taught Sunday school for goodness sake!

Watching the film years later with my sister, we both marveled at how inoffensive this scene is actually.  It’s just a bunch of goofballs swimming rather innocently. It’s cute.

That’s still not going to stop me from blaming my mother’s single indiscretion for my new life writing erotic romance. It’s all A Room with a View’s fault.

Just kidding, mom. (I have a feeling you’re the only person reading this.)

It’s more likely that early exposure to meticulously constructed period pieces imbued me with an inability to resist any movie featuring a woman in a corset, denying her most intense feelings until the weight of an oppressive society makes her cry silent tears.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's time to come clean.

The main reason I set up this blog is to promote a project I'm working on with several other ladies called One Lucky Night. The book is a collection of intertwining romance stories centered on a Boston bar.  Just a warning: things get smutty in the best possible way.

Most of the essays in this blog will deal with my writing inspirations, my observations about sex in media and some unpublished fiction I'll share for free. I promise you I'll never post pictures of the boring food I made, because no one needs to see scrambled eggs or instant oatmeal documented in such a relentless way. I also promise not to start talking about my spouse or child, because those two deserve their privacy.  Also, I'm of the opinion that my kid is the most beautiful person I've ever seen, yet, objectively I know this can't be true. I also realize that all the anecdotes involving diaper changes are less compelling than I think they are.

The main goal of this blog is to be engaging and entertaining whilst pimping my writing. Hopefully, you think so, too.