Thursday, August 25, 2011

Perception, me, and Erin McCarthy's Flat Out Sexy

This is not a traditional review. I put off writing about Flat-Out Sexy because there wasn't much I could think of to say about it. A decent introduction to the series, interesting bits of NASCAR stuff here and a story that made sense. Woohoo. Don't you wanna run right out and grab it? It's better than I'm making it sound, buut something happened last night that made me re-evaluate how I saw the book.

An online friend of mine is a very talented artist and she's working on drawings for a new show. She showed me a rough draft of a take on Red Riding Hood and I said, in my own bluntly honest way, "I love it all but the nose. It's disproportionate." She's known me for a while so instead of being all "well, screw you and the broom you flew in on," she just said, "Thanks. But some people do have big noses."

And I thought about that statement. I enlarged the picture. Looked at it. Shrunk it. Looked at it again. And came to the conclusion that I still felt it was too big. However, I had to question why I felt that way. I realized that the rest of the drawing is perfect. The clothes are gorgeous, the background is evocative, and the feeling of wariness that the subject is experiencing just wafts from the drawing. Her face is beautiful, her eyes seem real, and then there's that nose. I've seen a lot of my friend's work and I expect every new piece to be beautiful. To have a so-called ugly element was jarring to me and my assumptions of what her work should be. In short, my perception of what I thought the work should be colored how I looked at it and, you know what? Some people do have big noses.

In Flat-Out Sexy, the hero, Elec, was a dumbass teenager and wound up with a STD. It wasn't caught in time and he wound up sterile. He can't have kids. He wants 'em, but he can't have them, which is why he views Tammy and her kids as a perfect situation for him. I really liked Hunter and Parker. In fact, in a perfect world, they'd get their own books someday. Parker, her son, reminds me of Harry from Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, but I digress. McCarthy doesn't make light of Elec's sterility, but neither it is a big deal. It's just part of who he is and the life he has. If one of my friends came to me and said, "This guy I've been dating for a while just told me he's sterile," I wouldn't tell her that it's a deal breaker. I'd tell her he's clearly serious about her and she needs to think hard about if she sees a future about him. Of course, if they'd been dating for a week, I'd tell her to make him wear a condom anyway.

So where am I going with this? Well, I realized that, as I was reading the later books in the series, I was expecting the announcement that Tammy was pregnant. By Elec. Who McCarthy made quite clear can't have kids. WTF, self, WTF? I suspect the problem here is that Elec clearly wants kids and therefore my subconscious feels that a miracle should happen. I mean, I didn't have a problem with Cal and Min deciding they never wanted kids. I was agreeable to the idea and Bet Me is one of my favorite books. However, it appears that my perception of a fictional happily ever after is that the main characters, who've I become invested in, get whatever they want. In Elec's case, this means kids. McCarthy does an excellent job of demonstrating the relationship between Elec and Tammy's kids, and she continues to build on that in the later books. He's a natural born father and he should get a baby if he wants one, dammit! Yet some people have big noses and some people can't have kids. Facts of life. You take the good, you take the bad... (Sorry, I couldn't resist).

To boil it down, apparently my perception of art, whether it be a line drawing or a book, is that it should be better than reality. This makes me a bit of a hypocrite because I've always demanded a logical framework for the books I read. I spent about fifteen minutes once, figuring out how magical powers could be genetically passed down the female line. I made one of those chart things and muttered to myself things like "it would have to be recessive on the x chromosome and the father would have to be a carrier with a similar genetic lineage, but obviously enough generations removed from the original population to avoid inbreeding." I did all that for magical powers, but my view isn't broad enough to accommodate cute girls with big noses or sterile heroes who want kids.

I didn't have much to say about Flat-Out Sexy when I first read it, but it proved to be the catalyst for a dose of self-awareness. This is why I love romances. They're about all different kind of relationships and if you look hard enough, you can always find some truth buried beneath the fiction.

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