I indulged in a rare weeknight out yesterday where I wasn't working or rehearsing or attempting to speak Italian and made my way to the Clifton Barnes and Noble - a lush Mecca for any book lover - to attend the book reading and signing of the cleavage-baring, snarkolicious Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan. Sarah is the east coast embodiment of this duo while Candy personifies the California contingent of Smart Bitches. Together, they are the mavens extraordinaire of the Smart Bitches Trashy Books Web site, one of my RSS daily reads.
Every day, in one form or another, the SBs take up the banner of Romanceland with their stalwart championship of well-crafted, thoroughly researched, good romance novels. In addition, they offer hot-topic insight to the romance industry and the genre in general, cutting-edge involvement in advancing romance in academia, so-honest-it-hurts reviews, and much, much more. They have no limits on the types of novels they review (everything from the conservative Loveswept to the more erotic Ellora's Cave) and their frank, ballsy, no-BS attitude practically leaps off the screen. Though you may not always like what they say or how they say it (and, full disclosure, there have been times when I haven't) it can't be denied that they know much of what they speak. In the four years since their inception, the SBs have become a juggernaut in the romance community and frequently speak on conference panels, NPR, Australian radio, and various other outlets on everything from man-titty to blogging to crackolicious books that were so bad, they couldn't put them down. As the name subtly hints, these are Not Always Nice Ladies - and they're more than okay with that.
But the thing that, in the end, really cemented my all-consuming, throbbing passion for the Smart Bitches (SBs) was Alan Rickman.
What, you may ask, does demigod Rickman have to do with the Smart Bitches?
So glad you asked.
It was the great SBs that gave me the heads up on this video of the band Texas' In Demand featuring Le Rickman that nearly caused me to break my mouse with the repeated clicks to replay. Then, about two weeks ago, their goody bag of online contacts clued me in to a sublime recording of Rickman reading the work of one of my all-time favorite authors, which I swiftly downloaded to my itunes, ipod, I'd make it a flippin' ringtone if I could figure out how.
Tangent: I'm throwing up a severe Whoa Now! right here regarding any further details on this item because I'm giving it as a gift to one more person and don't want to spoil it. Suffice it to say that I uttered the words (to my attentive computer, natch) how did I live in this world for the six years following the publication of this treasure and not know it existed?! It's awe-inspiring, mouth-dropping stuff, I promise.
So, a Web site that doesn't apologize for snarkitude and shares my tough love for romance AND all things Rickman? Gimme, gimme.
I've been reading the SB Web site now for nearly a year and a half and was just tickled purple when they got the book deal for BHB. Their hot trot up to publication has been a treat. When I read they were doing a local signing, I Post-It Noted the dets to my office wall, penned the event into my calendar, and alerted all involved (basically my mother and my boss) that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES was something to prohibit me from attending.
I was a tad excited.
Finally, last night, having retrieved my newly discharged mother from the hospital, I trudged down the parkway, in the rain, with my bronze-medal worthy windshield wipers (just not quite getting the job done) to my old stomping ground of Route 3 and the Clifton B&N for Sarah's signing (Candy, sadly, stayed on the west coast. I question that girl's commitment to self-promotion, I really do.)
Sarah was delightful, a heaping cup of awesomeness and fun. Her actual reading was on the short side as we spent so much of her time gabbing about the book, the site, Sarah's reading at the Happy Ending Cafe, NYC on erotica theme night with her inquisitive mother-in-law in tow, the stalking of Fabio, the adoration of cover model John DeSalvo, the totally ass-hat behavior on FoxNews, the excellent Eloisa James and her fascinating thesis comparing J.R. Ward's Brotherhood to the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the before and after bosom bookends to the Cosmo shotout for BHB, and much, much more. Laughter ensued often and heartily. Books were signed, novels were snarked, bosoms heaved - though that was mainly me trying to get out of the large, plush, black hole masquerading as an armchair.
In case it didn't register, let me repeat something here: my mother went with me last night. Amidst talk of subversive homoerotism in ubermale heroes, verbal Freudian slips on cable news that inadvertently alluded to presidential deviant sexual practices (that I did NOT explain to my mother), the awesome crack that is Twilight (which I still haven't missed not reading) and J.R. Ward novels (guilty on this one), and a reading of the top five sexual mythologies in romance novels, my mother sat beside me taking it all in. You may think, OK, so what? But noooo - this is the woman I hid my novels from throughout my adolescent/high-school years lest she confiscate them. To be fair, these were the great 80s novels where the rape fantasy often ran amok - not a good road map to sexual intimacy for an impressionable girl. Still, I loved them mightily and true (not the rape fantasies, obviously) and developed increasingly canny ways to hide them from my mother (like under my bed where I'm sure she never, ever thought to look for them.) So while I was happy to have her company last night, especially as we have spoken before at length about the community, the site, and the book (plus there was that whole just-got-out-of-the-hospital thing), my brain was exploding a little bit about the surrealism of it all.
I swear she laughed more than once.
I'm thumbing through my copy of BHB as I write this post and the laughter? It is luscious and good.