Saturday, January 30, 2010

Erotica at Barnes and Noble

How did it get to be the weekend already? There are any number of things I could blog about today, but I realized that my vacation photo of the Capitol might be a good illustration for an injustice I noticed at my local Barnes & Noble this afternoon.

The Capitol is a beautiful building, especially on a sunny August day, but I'm not at all happy with what's going on inside there these days. Why indeed are the shrill and negative Tea Baggers so powerful at stopping positive change (maybe their bad breath)? What about the voices of Americans who want decent health care, safe food and drugs, the end of Wall Street corruption and so many other reasonable and worthy causes that will make the world a better place for those of us who aren't super-rich?

Can our voices make a difference? Last year at this time it seemed they could. I still have hope, but it's hard to listen to the news these days.

But common wisdom also has it that when you pledge to change the things you can control, like shopping wisely to reward organic farmers (my son tells me bovine growth hormone is basically dead due to consumer resistance), it does make a difference. This afternoon, I was at a Barnes & Noble with my family and I happened to walk by the "Love and Sex" section. There were all kinds of how-to books about sexual techniques and how men and women can understand each other better. And then there was a whole shelf of Penthouse Letters in pocket paperback form. I scanned the display for other erotica anthologies, but I knew I wouldn't find any. According to Barnes & Noble corporate policy, the anthologies are way back in the fiction section. A browser would need to be interested in fiction first, then decide to pick up The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica instead of Best American Short Stories or whatever. I think the store is missing a huge opportunity to sell to browsers who are interested in spicing up their love lives with some juicy, well-written erotica. Okay, I could see the argument that this is nonfiction, but then how did Penthouse get the space? I have a soft spot in my heart for that publication, but come on, what's in those books is pure fiction!

I know, I know, this isn't on the level of health care reform, but do you think there is a way to bring this to the attention of Barnes & Noble? A write-in campaign or something that wouldn't be too demanding, but might make a difference? Because you see, I think writing erotica is all about making a small difference that can become a big difference in our society.

If you have any ideas, please let me know!


Craig Sorensen said...

It's very interesting that B&N chose to move the antho's into fiction; essentially to mainstream it. In a sense, I like the idea that erotica is placed with fiction, and not set apart. Ideally this makes it more prevalent to other readers. Ideally this means erotica is more "accepted."

Ideally, that is.

Of course, this is offset by the reality that this might be harder for fans of erotica to find the works. If you want sci fi, you go to the appropriate section. Want fantasy, it's over there. Romance? No problem.

Which is better? To be in the mainstream, or to be in a genre?

Giving the benefit of the doubt, maybe B&N isn't down with just how fictitious those Penthouse letters are! Should we call that wishful thinking?

Hmm. Guess I have no answers at this time. Hope you don't mind my rambling reply!

Donna said...

That's an excellent point, Craig. On the one hand it is a compliment to our genre to shelve us with general fiction, a sort of recognition that we belong in the mainstream.

I guess I was just reacting to the fact that there was plenty of a certain type of erotica shelved there that might mislead browsers into thinking this was their only choice. Herr Doktor suggested maybe they could have a note saying "for more erotica, see the fiction anthology section," which is a great idea. However, with a day of perspective under my belt, I'm not sure I could whip up eroticists into a frenzy of letter writing over this issue. Even if it is a good idea and would give up more exposure, so to speak. I mean, who shops in bookstores anyway?

I have heard a few other writers bemoan this, though. Lucky Penthouse!

Emerald said...

I wonder if the Barnes and Noble by me did that...I've frequented it for a number of years (it's right across the street from me), and I used to see a smattering of familiar anthologies when I perused the "Sex" section. Lately I have seen almost none. Hmmm, now I want to go over there and look in the general fiction area to see if I find any.

I also like to ask at the desk when I'm looking for one in particular (or one that I would like to see stocked). It may not be stocked, but it at least lets someone there know that someone is interested, and I have the opportunity also to specifically mention that I would appreciate seeing it stocked there.

Donna said...

Hey Emerald, Yeah they have some corporate policy that is decided at headquarters about these things and the branches can't deviate, or so I hear.

But that is awesome that you ask at the desk. My sister-in-law was telling me about a study where the number one motivating factor for workers was "a sense of making progress." I think what you are doing really does make a small difference--I need to do more of it myself!