Saturday, August 05, 2006

Janet Butler Plays Angels and Devils with Romance

Last month RWA's magazine published a meandering rant written by the now-infamous (mission accomplished?) Ms. Mentor-- aka Jan Butler.
Butler wants to tell you what you can read. Wellllll, actually, she wants to define romance according to HER standards. Her standards are hard to measure, since she can't seem to focus on a topic, and has no concept of logic. "Romance," she writes, "isn't about just any 'two people' celebrating 'love in its many forms.' "

Well, umm... yes, it is. What romance may be for Ms. Butler is her call. What romance is for me, my readership, the president, and/or anyone who ISN'T Jan is THEIR call. (Jan's version? I'm getting a mental image of a six pack of Pabst, Lee Greenwood on the Hi-Fi, and a quick tumble beneath the crucifix directly above the headboard... eyes closed, cuz Jesus is watchin'!)

Butler goes on to head off any nay-sayers at the pass:

...spare us the arguments about "censorship" and "inclusiveness." Preference for "one man, one woman" stories represents what RWA has always claimed is romance's target demographic: college-educated, married, middle-class, monogamous, and moral...

You know, Terry Pratchett says that excessive punctuation is the sign of a seriously deranged mind. (Paraphrasing, here... Pterry isn't the kind to mind.) I look at all those innocent words trapped in Ms. Butler's wrought iron quotes and itch to release them back into the wild. I bet it takes her ages to type, what with all the pauses to make quotations in the air as she talks to herself. Does that count as a nervous tic? It certainly makes ME nervous!

This makes me even MORE nervous:

Only in recent years has a vocal (translate: shrill) minority tried to drive RWA's focus off that path, under the guise of "broadening its horizons." But refusing to define romance according to the parameters it has held for centuries doesn't "broaden" anything.

I've looked EVERYWHERE for my copy of The Official Guide to Romance as Defined by Everyone Who Knows More than You and can't find it. If any readers out there have their copy handy, please send me the passage to which Butler is referring here. Romance is a genre elusive of dating, but I liked what I read over at Wikipedia:

"Unlike the novel (nouvelle romaine or "new romance") and like the chansons de geste, the romance dealt with traditional themes, above all three thematic cycles of tales, assembled in imagination at a late date as the Matter of Rome (actually centered on the life and deeds of Alexander the Great), the Matter of France (Charlemagne and Roland, his principal paladin) and the Matter of Britain (the lives and deeds of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, within which was incorporated the quest for Holy Grail). The Acritic songs (dealing with Digenis Acritas and his fellow frontiersmen) resemble much the chanson de geste, though they developed simultaneously but separately."

One of the things I find so fascinating about this is how much trouble the entire genre is in. Butler clearly states romance can't include homosexuality, adultery, or anything identified by her as "immoral." (Damn, quotations sneaking in... must need more meds.) She has virtually eliminated all of romance's foundations. Our thrones, it appears, are built on sinking sand. Well, ain't that a bitch? Earliest romance was 12th century stuff absolutely packed with adultery, unfaithfulness, corruption of the CHURCH, and naughty people doing naughty things.

...romance isn't about
just any "two people"
celebrating "love in its many forms."
--Janet W Butler

Now, Ms. Butler is all about college education, which surprises me. Why? Those of us who went to a college from whence an application is not available on the back of a pack of matches (hehe) may remember that romance was defined before Ms. Butler usurped its leadership and dragged it off to a cage of quotations. What we recognize today as the modern romantic novel has its roots in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, based on the works of such writers as Anne Radcliffe and, later, the ever-lauded Jane Austen. Contemporary romance is considered, by the current literary canon, to include all romantic fiction. Again, Wikipedia says, "modern usage of Romance novel denotes a particular erotic style in a highly conventionalized modern genre, and its sub-genres in historical settings."

HANG ON! Erotic? Nononono! College educated, middle class American women do NOT engage in anything EROTIC! Well... they SHOULDN'T engage in anything erotic. It's unnatural. Janet is all about what's natural. She identifies "what comes naturally" (her quotations, not mine... I took the pill) as one man and one woman.

I watch Animal Planet. Nature is full of homosexuality, violence, dirt, and multiple partners. Scientists have also identified the human heredity of the world descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of a genetic Eve. These original grand-parents lived in Africa and started to disperse outward around 144,000 years ago. The women had multiple partners, part of the natural selection that allowed the human race to form.

Dirty hos!

Many in the romance community disagree with Janet. Thank heaven, and thank you, romance writers. I did a little research and found the following responses out in the blogosphere:

Dear Author
Kate Rothwell
Sybil at Redwyne
Karen Scott
Joely Skye

I also, last week, bought a copy of Janet's most recent book, From the Ashes, which was given a really great review by somebody named... HEY!, Lois Butler. I wonder if they are related. It was only 50 cents, so I had it express shipped. It sucked, but that's just my opinion. If you are dying to read what romance is SUPPOSED to be, check it out. I prefer the corrupt, immoral, incorrectly done kind. The good news is you can pick up her paperback for as little as 33 cents. How cool is that? Used copies of smut have skyrocketed, but the morally superior stuff is dirt cheap!

1 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

Bebe Thomas said...

Bravo, Chrissy!!!!!!!!! ***Bebe gives virtual standing ovation***

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