mark monday's Reviews > The Dickens with Love

The Dickens with Love by Josh Lanyon
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Dec 16, 2011

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bookshelves: queertime, romantika, rain-man-reviews
Recommended to mark by: RBRS Assignment #3

This week's Guest Dear Abby is mark monday, a public policy director and "confirmed bachelor" from San Francisco.

Mr. monday will be answering your questions about the yuletide offering from Josh Lanyon entitled
The Dickens with Love.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

You were assigned to read this and report on your thoughts quite a while ago. Why are you always lagging behind? Your review is overdue.

Disappointed,
RBRS

*****

Dear RBRS,

my apologies. well, here's the review:

i was surprised at how much i enjoyed this pleasant little novella. the writing was swell. several notches above my expectations actually. the two lead characters were well-developed, interesting, sympathetic. i really liked how Lanyon wove God, an orphan, a love of literature, his clear knowledge of Dickens, an ocelot, some food & hotel detail-porn, and of course Christmas into the romantic mix. not much really fell flat for me and all the different elements were smoothly and naturally incorporated. my only real caveat is that i didn't particularly care for the very ending - specifically the gift (really? just like that?) and the apparent tossing aside of a remarkable goal for that gift (really? just like that?). but other than that, overall this was a pleasant and diverting although very brief affair. i will attempt to make this review approximately ten times as long as the reviewed book in question. why not? i have nothing to do for at least a couple hours.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

I also found Dickens to be diverting, frothy in fact. But I am concerned that the use of the one night stand in a gay m/m romance may be substituting one negative generalization (a woman who has one night stands is a slut) with another (those gay men are always having one night stands and it is no big deal). I also had some issues with the tone, which veered from absurd (ocelot attack) to perhaps overly-prosaic and maudlin (orphan protagonist who hates his job). Am I wrong?

Perplexed,
Ceridwen

*****

Dear Ceridwen,

first of all, no - you are not wrong! don't play the blame-game on yourself! and yet, well, i feel you are wrong. the idea of the easy one night stand in the gay world, the ease of sex in general, the lack of judgment around brief encounters... well, if i may be so bold as to make a broad generalization on behalf of my peers: as far as attitudes towards sex goes, it is just different for most of those who live in Gay World. and by "different", i actually mean "better". very few tedious hang-ups and self-hate around sexual connections. sex is a big thing - and it is not a big thing; it ain't no thing. there are many monogomous (or open but committed) relationships as well, of course. but having a hook-up in Gay World isn't the tremendous mind-fuck that it can be for the denizens of Straight World. poor Straight World. however, there are obvious downsides to this, including high rates of STDs, HIV infection, an obsession with sex, a potential of losing yourself in perpetual tricking instead of trying to develop meaningful relationships (both romantic or platonic). so perhaps "better" isn't the right word after all. so let's stick with "different".

as far as your second point... isn't that randomness a part of life? can't a fellow suffer a surprise ocelot attack in some cheesy champagne bar also be a guy with a lot of angst about being cast-out, an orphan, working at a job he doesn't like? i appreciate that mixture of tones. if this was just a dippy book featuring lots of ocelot attacks & the like, i would have been annoyed. the protagonist's personal story, his angsty bits, sorta anchored the tale for me.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

I did not enjoy the mix of tones either. I wanted frothy romance trash and there were various comments that annoyed me. For example, I did not appreciate the attempts at so-called deepness from a character that I see merely as "jolly old saint condom clause". It particularly irritated me when comments that I found to be sentimental claptrap were noted as popular highlights by other readers. And I hated when they brought God in between the sheets. I was really just looking for some funny lines to laugh at, and well I suppose I found some here and there. But overall, the experience just rather bugged. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Annoyed,
Jen

*****

Dear Jen,

first of all - no, you are not wrong! we all have our own truth. we are all right and we are all wrong. that is the nature of the human condition. but actually, in this case, i do think you are wrong. doesn't the inclusion of jarringly "deep" (although, admittedly, a rather hackneyed and cliched version of "deep") comments actually make the character a bit more than a "jolly old santa condom clause"? why did you merely see him as a "jolly old santa condom clause" when he is clearly a character who has been fairly well-developed, at least for a novella of this scope? i think this is a case of missed expectations rather than any flaw of the writing. and didn't you find the inclusion of God at various points to be an interesting surprise? it was certainly an unusual and striking decision on the author's part, particularly in what is clearly designed to be a disposable bit of fluff. the straightforward and non-condescending inclusion of spiritual discussions sort of sets this bit of fluff apart. it makes it a bit less fluffy. i think that is a good thing!

_________________________

Dear Abby,

I appreciated the use of condoms. I thought this book was adequate. Am I wrong?

Didn't Laugh Myself Sick,
Miriam

*****

Dear Miriam,

first of all - no, you are not wrong! what is "wrong" anyway, and what is "right"? they are both merely constructs, figments of imagination that this poor human race enjoys obsessing over. back home on Robot Planet, we laugh at these silly human delusions. and we'll still be laughing when my people come to join me here on Earth, to colonize and to turn you humans into our silly meat-based workforce. ha! i dare say you all will no longer have the time to worry about what is "right" or "wrong"!

i do have to add that i also appreciated the condom use. but a condom for oral sex? that felt strange. i know that that must happen, and it is certainly encouraged in safer-sex messages, but my experience has been that this is rare. very rare. and yet it was so nonchalantly depicted in Dickens. hmmm, well perhaps it was needed, if only to offer more of the colored-condom jokes that i felt were a bit too present in the novella.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

I liked this book. It surprised me. I liked the protagonist, the food porn, the God, the boning. Given the season, this hit the spot. Am I wrong?

Besides Myself In Worry & Anticipation of Your Response,
Karen

*****

Dear Karen,

first of all - no, you are not wrong. you are actually never wrong! that is why you are the #1 reviewer.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

I also liked this book. It sure had some come in it. Or should that be "cum"? Whatever, I wrote a poem about it to get it off of my chest. So to speak. Was I wrong to do that?

Ecstatic,
Caris

*****

Dear Caris,

first of all - yes, you are wrong. there was a surprising lack of sperm in this book. however, that was a splendid poem that you wrote. i really enjoyed it. you are a talented young man. you should write a book!

__________________________

Dear Abby,

I thought this novella was cute for what it was. However i was reminded of several things that disturb me, among them female representation in the media and the female audience/female writers of slash fiction. But does this have anything to do with Dickens or its male author? I also had issues with the realism of the ocelot attack. Am I wrong?

Increasingly Agitated But Not Really,
Kat

*****

Dear Kat,

first of all - no, you are not wrong. the world is wrong! stupid, stupid world. an ocelot attack, as if! feh!

but you make some excellent points, points to consider. i am actually unsure about Dickens place in this discussion of female representation because the idea that Dickens was written for a female audience is news to me. the novella seemed tailored to the gay male audience - although it was certainly a lot less sex-tastic than other sorts of romantic gay novels, with deeper characterization and more realistic behavior in general. perhaps therein lies the appeal to the female audience? i don't know. well, actually, from my limited experience with romantic novels, i don't think so. but the idea is very interesting to me. ever since i first learned of it in college, and in many conversations since then, i have always been fascinated and continually surprised by female interest in m/m romance and even gay porn. both straight and queer women. i just have never figured that one out. some might say it is due to the idea of reclaiming roles, and/or of putting yourself (a woman) into a role (a gay male) that perhaps has less automatic - and less queasy - issues around power and control. or maybe some ladies just like to imagine themselves as dudes because it is not just transgressive, it is fun, it is freeing. i dunno. food for thought.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

I thought this was okay. Blessedly brief. The sex scenes were odd but okay, and - fortunately - did not work for me. My ass shall remain unscathed - Exit Only! Am I wrong?

Fearful of Lasting Damage,
Eh?Eh!

*****

Dear Eh?Eh!,

first of all - no, you are not wrong. much like choosing a faith, a career path, or a life partner... the decision of whether to have or not to have ass adventures is a very personal decision that we all must eventually make in our lifetime.

but yes, actually, you are wrong! c'mon, it's the bomb! don't let Dickens scare you away! i say Go For It! it's what all the cool kids are doing these days.

_________________________

Dear Abby,

So none of your little jokes, okay? I do have a serious issue. Reading this novella, commenting on it, writing reviews for a book group, and thinking of the community that Dickens was intended for... well, after considering it all, it makes me uncomfortable. Am I somehow fetishizing this community, am I guilty of being a kind of leering, voyeuristic, mocking Outsider-Looking-In, oh look at this silly community, let's all laugh at it now? That is not who I am. I am reminded of the many ways that women are fetishized and objectified, and the comparison is unsettling. Am I wrong?

Concerned,
Elizabeth

*****

Dear Elizabeth,

first of all, you are not wrong. i do think that RBRS skirted this uncomfortable issue, and as a queer man, i have to admit to feeling a little anxious, a little am i going to get pissed off about this?. but in the end, i felt the reviews didn't turn out to be a problem, at least not for me. hell, i'm not even sure if you were talking about the m/m audience for romantic fiction, or for the female audience who appreciates m/m fiction. well, either way, i really appreciate your sensitivity. it is so easy to mock and condescend to things, as an outsider looking in. your mining of your own reactions, your uneasy contemplation of the gap between the goals of critical or even just plain snarky reviews and the goals of the community who enjoys novels like Dickens... impressive. i understand your discomfort. it is something i've struggled with as well when reading various genres. i really just loved your review and your perspective.

____________________

Dear Abby,

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SEX SCENES? MY GOD, ENOUGH ABOUT GOD & BEING WRONG & BEING SENSITIVE TO OUTSIDER COMMUNITIES & ALL THAT BLITHER-BLATHER... WHAT ABOUT THE SEX??

About to Shoot Off Here Unless You Answer This Very Important Question,
Josh Lanyon's Editor

*****

Dear Josh's Editor,

well, they were okay. for the most part, well-done. they didn't particularly amaze me, nothing to add to my personal spank bank, you know. but they felt real and they weren't corny, so good job. except maybe in the future, avoid the oddball metaphors please. for example, semen should never never never be referred to as "starfire". please, never allow that to happen again.
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Comments (showing 1-37 of 37) (37 new)

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Eh?Eh! Hahaha! I like the conversation! And thanks for the encouragement to try new things!


mark monday i'm always here for you Eh! well not in that way, of course.


Kat Kennedy Excellent review, Mark. Very entertaining.


Eh?Eh! *snort* That's right, exit only!


mark monday thanks Kat! it was fun to write

Eh!, as the song goes: free your mind - your booty will follow!


Eh?Eh! But my ear holes and exit hole remain unplugged - no oil-derrick action for either the brain or booty here!

Ahem.


mark monday ha! i'm not sure i can really follow that one up. you've spun my mind around, Eh!


Eh?Eh! Line, I have crossed you! Again!

;)


message 9: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy What a fun review!


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Falalalala!


Kat Kennedy Come now, Eh, there's nothing wrong with a little buttsecks here and there!


Kat Kennedy Sorry, Mark, I should clarify that I don't think Lanyon really wrote this novel for a female audience but after reading several of his comments I get the feeling he's resigned himself to the fact that a good portion of his audience is going to be women. Perhaps it was just the traditional romance platform coming through but the novel just portrayed the m/m relationship in a very traditional passive/aggressive way that I hadn't seen nearly as much in other m/m literature.


message 13: by Jen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jen Dear Abby,

I like this column- you should keep it going!

And even though I think we're not going to agree on the deepness of the character, I'm going to keep reading your column!


message 14: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks Nancy!

take those fingers out of your ears Ceridwen!

ah, thanks for the clarification Kat. makes sense. and interestng point in regards to the particularly passive protagonist. three P's!

thanks Jen! yes i am finding this to be a surprisingly natural fit! why does dispensing obnoxious, unasked-for advice feel so good? must be the Virgo in me! ah, pleasure


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Oh, I was just d*cking the halls.


karen i am going to quote you!!

take that, ashes haters!


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Dangit. I am an Ashes non-enthusiast. Do I still have to take it?


karen abby has laid down the law!! i am never wrong!!


message 19: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus for example, semen should never never never be referred to as "starfire". please, never allow that to happen again.

Oh oh oh

my sides hurt

oh


message 20: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday I was speaking of women into M/M romance fiction being the confusing/concerning bit

ah!

Men who love men who read M/M romance fiction isn't weird at all (except for the romance fiction part)

ha!


message 21: by Mark (new)

Mark another really clever concept review. Thanks


message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks Mark!


message 23: by Nilesh (new)

Nilesh Kashyap You keep getting more and more creative, in every next review I read.


message 24: by Kris (new)

Kris I don't know how I missed this before -- so very creative and brilliant and funny. Well done!


message 25: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thank you both - very, very much appreciated!


karen awww, i remember this review!


message 27: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday i loved writing this one. i thought i'd give all of my RBRS reviews a nice spit & polish before tackling the latest assignment Geared for Pleasure (which i enjoyed). will Geared be the final RBRS review? things are sure sleepy in that there group. i may have to start going through the RBRS back-catalogue.


karen yeah - wake those rippers up, man!

or, you can join my monsterotica reading group.


message 29: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday eek, monstererotica! i literally cannot even imagine the sorts of people who would read such things! i would never, never, ever, ever read such monstrous monstrosities! i already live it as a reality! the idea of people reading about my romantic predilictions as some sort of light entertainment is monstrously insensitive!


karen your attitude saddens me.


Kelly H. (Maybedog) Please tell me these are questions from said people's reviews? Otherwise I would be angry because I love me a good M/M erotic romance and you are my sex slave.

Have any recommendations for good stuff in this genre? I mean, other than the fabulous stuff written for the M/M Romance group.


message 32: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday they were my creative interpretations on comments made in reviews by the noted folks. no one really had any questions (if i recall correctly), that was just me trying to be droll.

slave? never! unless it is Opposite Day. i am only a slave to my dick. oh such a sad comment i just made! ::writhes::

unfortunately, i have pretty much no recommendations on m/m erotic romance because i have read practically nothing in the genre. however i have read quite a bit of queer fiction that i would not term as m/m erotic romance. it is all on my "queertime" shelf. although i caution you to take the reviews with a grain of salt, because i am often harsh & unforgiving with my queer brethren.


Kelly H. (Maybedog) Denial comes easy, doesn't it. ;)

I'll take a look at your shelf. It might give me some ideas. ("She said that.")


message 34: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday ha!

i hope you do find something interesting on there Kelly.

if you want something literary, i'd suggest the classic Giovanni’s Room, The Salt Point: A Novel, A Boy's Own Story, and maybe The Coming Storm.

Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll is not particularly literary, but it is tender and earnest.

if you want something light and fun, there's The Surprising Rise of Luke Vanner, and joe keenan's Blue Heaven & Putting on the Ritz


Kelly H. (Maybedog) I'll take a look at those, thanks!


message 36: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Great review, Mark!


message 37: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks Eileen!


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