Romance novels need a canon
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats. Read the whole essay.
Chris Christie got tapped to make the keynote attack on President Obama, but Rick Santorum was assigned to throw out some of the reddest meat at the GOP convention: about the way Obama supposedly gutted the work requirement for welfare (he didn’t).
And in case anyone was in danger of missing the racial subtext, Santorum linked Obama’s waiving the work requirement (he didn’t) to “his refusal to enforce the immigration law.” Welfare recipients and illegal immigrants, oh my! Santorum made sure to scare the white working class with the depredation of those non-white slackers and moochers. It’s 1972 all over again.
But Santorum moved beyond “blah” people to claim that all of America is caught up in “a nightmare of dependency, with almost half of Americans receiving government assistance.” To get to half, Santorum had to be including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps, programs that are overwhelmingly going to white people.
Implicitly, Santorum praised Charles Murray’s thesis (which he praised explicitly during the primary campaign) that “marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is the highest.” Of course, where in the 1980s Murray made that claim about black people, now he’s making it about the white working class. But Santorum and the GOP are counting on the fact that the white working class — the core of their base — aren’t paying attention to that analysis, they’re only hearing the dog whistles about the non-white. The entire 2012 race hinges on that.
Apart from its race-baiting and lying, the GOP’s attacks on welfare are most remarkable because the program has been slashed dramatically. Before Bill Clinton signed the welfare reform law, 68 percent of 100 families in poverty got welfare; now it’s 27 percent. The caseload declined 58 percent; it now represents .07 percent of the federal budget. Welfare is no longer an issue – unless you’re reaching back into Pat Buchanan’s playbook because you’re desperate.
That’s what Santorum did Tuesday night, in a speech notable not only for race-baiting but for some overall creepiness. He reprised what was a moving description of his coal-mining grandfather’s hands back in January, and this time made it sound weird. Then he went on at length with a riff on all sorts of hands that started, “I shook the hand of the American dream and it has a strong grip”; the whole soliloquy was creepy.
Santorum made it plain why he wasn’t the nominee.
But he didn’t say anything to explain why Mitt Romney should be president.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."More Joan Walsh.
"Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie
"Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie
Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower. Read the whole essay.
"A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant
A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex. Read the whole essay.
"Black Silk" by Judith Ivory
A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say. Read the whole essay.
"For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale
A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society. Read the whole essay.
"Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner
A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ... Read the whole essay.
"Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen
Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight. Read the whole essay.
"The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal
A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency. Read the whole essay.
"Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time. Read the whole essay.