Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's Real Literature! (Part 2 of "Old School")

I had a little epiphany the other day. Someone posted a comment about romances on another blog and I said something like, "Oh, you're judging all romances by one" or whatever. And I was actually a little irked. Not a lot irked, but a little irked.

Then I saw that article I linked to (which is turning up everywhere, btw.) And I started thinking about it. Cue epiphany.

Who cares?

Why do I care if someone thinks romances are crap? Why do I care of someone thinks they're easy to write, or dull, or stupid, or Not Real Books?

In other words, why do the opinions of the rude and pretentious matter to me?

A lot of people I know were pleased with that article. They thought this might be a step towards getting romances somehow recognized as art or something. And you know, that's fine. If it's important to them, that's fine. But for me it's a little like being good in bed. As long as the person who shares that activity with me (that would be my husband) is pleased, I don't care what people I've never slept with think about my performance.

And ultimately, I do believe all this "We're serious artists" stuff is bad for romance. Why? Because, as I said the other day, romances should be fun.

I think there are a lot of people who are trying so hard to prove that romances are smart and well-written and Worthy of Serious Consideration, that they've forgotten to write fun stuff. I've read some dull-as-dishwater romances, believe me. And I really think this is the reason why.

Romances have gotten so politically correct. So safe. So bland! You rarely see, for example, heroines who throw china and heroes who punch holes in walls and people who scream at each other and then start kissing and have angry, tearful sex on jets flying to their private island, where they'll connive to take over the corporation of some hapless fool who is the heroine's real father but she doesn't know it. Or whatever.

Part of this may be because such characters became a little cliche by about the early nineties (although one thing that does piss me off is when current writers pick on those 70's romances. Those writers had it a lot harder than we do, writing on typewriters all day and not having communities or blogs or email. They were published authors in an age where a woman having a career that she cared about was still an anomaly. So quit talking about how much better you are than those hacks, okay? Or how dumb and cliche their books were. They paved the way for you, and you should have some respect.) Part of it may be simply that such stories aren't fashionable at the moment-market trends do change. But I firmly believe there are a lot of women out there who are bored by the romances coming out now, who would jump all over something like that were it published now. Something big and blowsy and fun. Like The Crimson Petal and the White was touted as being before we all read it and realized it wasn't that sexy at all, not was it especially fun, and the ending sucked.

I think this is why paranormals have become so big. Because vampires are allowed to be sort of smooth and sexist (mmmm). Werewolves are allowed to be rude alpha males (in fact, it's pretty much a requirement, isn't it?) Erotic romance is part of this, too. Lots of action, lots of sex, lots of excitement. Not page after page of the heroine's crusade to help the poor, or whining about the man who left her when she got pregnant, or whatever.

The point is, I'm tired of hearing about and reading about and seeing articles about how romance writers should be taken seriously and look how good these books are and what modern topics they cover. I realize it's necessary in some places to keep new readers coming into the fold. But the people who we seem to be trying so hard to impress are never going to care. They just won't. A romance could win a Pulitzer and they'll still say romance is crap. So why bother? Why not just say, "Yeah, and lots of people love reading my crap, so there."

Let's all try it, shall we? Let's be proud to write fun stuff, to write books people enjoy reading.

It's like that guy Miss Snark overheard talking about his Life of the Mind. Screw you, you pretentious weed. It's probably easy to live a life of the mind when nobody wants to talk to you because your head is so far up your own ass you're practically a gordian knot.

People like that aren't worth my time, and they shouldn't be worth yours.

So bring on Lady Sheba St. John and her mortal enemy, the handsome Lord Devlin, and their forbidden passion!


Erik Ivan James said...

My favorite book store is not B&N or the like. My favorite is a small, privately owned used book store.

The other day, I was in my favorite little store purchasing a sack-full of books and chatting with the owner. As part of our conversation, I asked him what sold the best by volume. Without hesitation he said it was romance, and by a wide margin. Kinda makes me think that those who downgrade romance writing don't have a clue.

Bernita said...

Geesus, December, we think alike so often it scares me.
But you say it better.

December Quinn said...

Exactly my point, Erik. Romance sells. Millions of people buy and read them--and enjoy them.

Who cares what a bunch of literary snobs think? Since when do we have to defend ourselves to a group of rude jerks who try to put other people's work down because it's genre, or because it's about people falling in love and has a happy ending?

December Quinn said...

I wouldn't say that, Bernita. I'm in awe of your excerpts and your blog.

Are we sure we weren't separated at birth or something? My Mom says I'm her only daughter, but you know how Moms are. I tell my kids we're out of lollipops when I'm just too lazy to get up and give them one, too.

Elle said...

I know that you and maybe other might disagree but I think the same sort of thing can be said about lots of types of books. Look at the "chick lit" of today. I suppose one could say that they're the romance novels of today, but whatever. They're light enjoyable reads. And what about mysteries? Loads of absolute crap put out every year that goes absolutely no where and doesn't mean a hill of beans to anyone but the ones who like to read those sorts of things. After growing up seeing women like my grandmothers read sackfuls of romances all the time and seeing my girlfriends in high school read them and for fuck's sake now my sister reads them on a regular basis (rather out of character for her - no offence meant to romance novels), I can totally see and agree with Erik's book store owner friend - romance sells and very well. All the more power to the writers and readers, I say and who gives a flip about the "real literature" argument. Oh yes and bring on the vamps! I'm all over that, you know. ;)

December Quinn said...

Oh, no, I totally agree, elle. I know mystery writers deal with the "that's not a real book" stuff, too, as do sf/fantasy writers. Really, anyone writing genre gets shit for it.

I think romance gets picked on more, though, because it's mainly by and for women. It's a way for men who pride themselves on their liberal attitudes to still be sexist and feel good about themselves for it.

Robyn said...

As long as I can still read Harlequin Presents I'll be happy. From Michelle Reid's The Brazilian's Blackmailed Bride:

The hero, once spurned by the heroine, now has the upper hand. He tells her that in order for him to pay to save her home, she has to marry him and basically be his slave, but she slaps him. After that, all hell breaks loose.
"So they remained there, pressed against the door, kissing like hungry maniacs for long lost minutes. Time in which he managed to rid her of her jacket. The skirt was too big. He had only to release the zip for it to fall in a heavy whisper to the floor."

Yes, Michelle coins my favorite man-chesty term in this one, Thundering Breastplate. I hooted like a drunken goose, but I loved every minute of it. You've hit it right, December- it was FUN. Absolute, hysterical, sexy FUN.

December Quinn said...

OMG thundering breastplate!? Kissing for long lost minutes?

And there's slapping in it, too?

Oh I have to buy that book. Right away. Right away.

BTW, I love the Supergirl icon! I keep meaning to change to a Harley Quinn one--JTC gave me a link for some--but I'm lazy.

Isabella Snow said...

Jesus, I was just thinking about that the other day - what if I had to use a typewriter. Nuh-uh. Not for me. No way. Thank God I wasn't born in 1940.

(hmm.. that whole WWII thing would have sucked, too...)

Jenn on the Island said...

Wow, I'm loving this tirade, December!

The way I see it, romance stories are a form of disposable entertainment. We buy them, we read them, we move on. I mean really, how many have you read more than once? The industry is set up that way. Books are rarely around for more than a year or two and readers seem to like it that way.

Readers looking for a good time don't want to have to discect characters under a microscope to figure out their motivation. They want a bit of fun after a long day's work (according to RT most romance readers are univerity educated and work full time)

Let the literary snobs be snobs. No one wants to go to their parties anyway.

crabbycows said...

Sub offer on the blog for today only if you’re interested.

As I’m on a week’s holiday and spending it at home, a game is also on offer if interest is high enough. You’ll need to leave a comment if you want a game to run this week. The game will run from tomorrow until Friday.


December Quinn said...

Yes, I agree that that whole WWII thing would have sucked, although...I admit that's my favorite period in modern history. I love books set in the 40s and I'd love to write one someday.

December Quinn said...

Absolutely, Jenn. I don't want to go to one of their parties.

I have read a few romances more than once, though, but not many. The ones I have I'm putting in my Library Thing. The rest...yeah, I give them away or whatever.

My goal is to be one of the keepers, though!

December Quinn said...

I am the SHIT. CC#1 came by my blog.

*preens*. See, I am important! Take that, high school!

Anonymous said...

"It's a way for men who pride themselves on their liberal attitudes to still be sexist and feel good about themselves for it."

Heeyyy . . .


December Quinn said...


Last time I checked, JTC dear, you weren't putting down romance writers. So clearly I didn't mean you!

S. W. Vaughn said...

The words "politically correct" make me want to vomit.


December Quinn said...

Me too, SW! Exactly.

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! »