Home economics

July 14, 2006

I’m so glad Television Without Pity is recapping Top Chef. Keckler, the recapper, seems to have contempt for exactly the same people I did as I watched it, which is always a good sign. It’s a nice way to pad out their offerings during the slower summer months and give me something to read between episodes of Project Runway and that utter train derailment, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. (I know I should try and better myself and rise above entertainments that basically just point the camera at the crazy person, but have you seen her?)

Speaking of Project Runway, I think it’s off to a good start. Michael Kors seems to be taking a somewhat higher dosage of anti-depressants than usual, which is unnerving, but Nina Garcia fails to conceal a smirk better than anyone else on television, Tim Gunn is adorable, and there’s something inexplicably delightful about watching Heidi Klum having the time of her life. Oh, and the contestants are okay, but I’m really just in it for the hosts and judges.

(On Klum: does anyone else suspect that she has a line tattooed on her thighs that only appears under ultraviolet light but lets designers and tailors know exactly where her hem should fall? Because it’s always the same, whether it’s a skirt or a top over slacks, and it’s always at an impeccably becoming length. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Michael, but please just use the light as you pin the hem, okay?”)

Okay, now to the real reason behind this post. I made some really good pesto the other weekend, and I want to make it again (because we have tons of basil), but I want incorporate it into risotto this time. I’m thinking that I should just mix it in at the last minute when I would have added the grated parmesan, as it probably wouldn’t do too much for the basil to actually cook it. Has anyone out there made pesto risotto, and can you offer any suggestions as to timing or proportions?

Artificial distinctions?

July 14, 2006

David Taylor contemplates some thoughts from Queenie (The Dreaming) Chan on just what the hell shôjo means anyways. Or at least what shôjo means outside of its original context, as a way to identify itself to its target audience.

Both note that the shôjo-shônen categorizations aren’t especially useful, as there’s considerable crossover in terms of audience as books are licensed and translated. Queenie cites Naruto as an example of a theoretically shônen title that seems to have about a 50-50 male-female ratio in its audience. (She could just have easily used Fullmetal Alchemist or Fruits Basket, which certainly can’t sell as well as they do by only appealing to one gender.)

Chan raises an excellent question in response to all of the recent examination of feminist (or anti-feminist) principles in shôjo manga:

“My point is: are you sure it’s a ‘shoujo’ thing, and not a ‘genre’ thing? In my experience, most romance stories aren’t teeming with strong role models, male OR female. I’ve read both shounen and shoujo romance, told for both male and female audiences, and I’ve NEVER felt like imitating any of the people in most of them them. A typical romance story is a fantasy in itself – it’s not meant to simulate real-life relationship issues. A story that simulates real-life relationship issues isn’t a ‘romance’ story; it’s in another genre altogether. Most teenage girls are aware of this.”

It’s a nice echo of Dirk Deppey’s description of manga (and by extension shôjo) as a meta-category, though I don’t think the selection of shôjo available in English nearly reflects the diversity that apparently already exists in Japan. It would be great if it did, obviously, because “shôjo” need not be synonymous with “romance,” as Queenie suggests.

I put together a poll for MangaTrade the other day, asking responders what categories of manga they’d like to see more of now that shônen and shôjo already have such well-established footholds. Looking back on the options, I see a lot of room for improvement, as I muddled genre and target demographic together as choices. Because just as there are mysteries and adventures and romance stories, there are josei, seinen, shônen and shôjo variations on all of those genres as well. And asking people if they want, say, more josei titles doesn’t really indicate what kind of stories they want to read. I’ll be more specific next time.

And this, I guess, brings me to the part of the lunar cycle where I ramble on about shelving by genre instead of demographic and integrating graphic novels in with prose. As David T. puts it:

“Am I the only one that thinks selling books by genre, you know historical, fantasy, comedy, rather then girls books and boys books makes more sense. You know the idea that we can read a story because we happen to like the topic without the false idea that it should be targeted at the opposite sex.”

I find that to be absolutely true. I also like the idea of graphic novels filtering in with the genre-sorted prose books so that you can find Kindaichi Case Files with the mysteries and Fun Home with the autobiographies and Castle Waiting in fantasy and so on. It’s already happening to a limited extent, particularly in the young adult category, and I fully expect the practice to expand over time.

But I would be lying if I said I wanted to see an end to the graphic novel sections of bookstores, because it’s so convenient for a manga omnivore. I like seeing Absolute Boyfriend next to Antique Bakery, Nana next to Naruto, and Bambi and Her Pink Gun near Boogiepop. It’s at least partly a result of my own laziness, but I also find a certain democracy to the genre-blind, alphabetical system. There’s a cumulative effect to seeing all of those different kinds of books side by side, and I find it pleasing.