Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Read a Wind-Sewn and Wonderful Romance

Why is it that as the recent Cassie Edwards debacle has spun out into the universe for judgment, the romance genre is taking all the hits rather than one craptastic moron? And why must the whole predictible spasm of response be so one-note and cliché? And why-- WHY??-- must romance, when it is criticized, always be relegated to "dumb fluff" or "cheesy bodice ripping." It's always a tone of dismissiveness because these readers are dumb, undersexed, and it's not real literature.

If it's between two pages and made up of words it's literature. Get over it. Hustler magazine is literature. Blogs by teenage nerds are literature. Cassie Edwards books are literature. They're all just really bad literature.

I just can't help but wonder why pulp fiction in other genres gets slammed as bad or sensational, but its readers are considered readers with bad taste, not stupid bimbos who know no better. Playboy is read for the articles, right? But men who like Penthouse or Playboy aren't stupid. They're horny. Craptastic suspense novels are considered mainstream, perhaps pedestrian, but not dumb or silly. Men of these genres are "master of" horror, or suspense, or crime drama. Tom Clancy isn't considered dumb for recycling themes. People who read Fantasy or Sci Fi are nerds, and probably have Dr. Who on Blueray, but they're just weird, not stupid.

No, romance takes the hit because it's fun to use outdated phrases like "bodice ripper" and "trashy novel." But behind that isolation as bimbo-pulp is, I think, a residual sexist sludge. Bodice rippers went the way of the Dodo when women gave themselves permission to have and enjoy sex without being forced. When it became ok for us to have, expect, even demand orgasms without feeling we were bad girls for wanting them, it was no longer necessary to pound the pirate's chest with weakly mewled "no, Rafe no's" or "don't, stop" becoming "don't stop" between pages 47 and 48. We're allowed to want it, like it, and be cool with that.

I suspect the reason is that many snide critics of romance are uptight, don't like women very much, and resent the hell out of the evolution of the romance novel on some deep, Freudian sub-basement level. You know, where the stuff about their mum in her nightie is hidden. Down there. Dismissing all romance of today as inconsequential, silly, stupid, and full of bad sex is really a knee-jerk reaction to strong women who write, read, and are what and whom they want.

Which is why writers and readers of great romance should (and seem to be) offended and distressed to see us all colored with the same brush in response to the Edwards kerfuffle. There are writers who deserve so much better: pioneers like Jane Austen and Gorgette Heyer; great contemporary voices like Julia Quinn, Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, great new voices like Elizabeth Vaughan, Jenna Black, Nalini Singh; those a few of us are watching carefully as they creep into the mainstream from e-publishing, like Diana Castilleja, Amanda Brice, Heather Fowler, and so very many others. These are the smart, funny, gifted, lyrical, glorious voices, names and faces of romance. Nary a bodice-ripping dingbat in the bunch. And frankly the names I've listed are only those who leap to mind. My shelves and hard-drive groan with the weight of good romances. THESE are the authors of true romance, great romance, the stuff that sprouted from the hillsides where Jane Austen's wildflower seeds took root. Wind-sewn and wonderful, they deserve respect and a readership unashamed to enjoy great love stories by great writers. And when people lump these dazzling writers with the likes of Cassie Edwards they do literature-- YES, LITERATURE-- a grave disservice.

Please do keep this in mind as this latest nastiness spins itself out. Smell the flowers and leave the weeds alone.

8 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Yep. Amen Sistah. Totally agree with you. Especially with your "To Watch" list.
In a world that seems to reward, rather than punish, shortcuts the names you mentioned are hardworking and talented authors.
You rock as always.

Diana Castilleja said...

Thanks for the hug Chrissy! I have to agree with you and Jen. There are some very talented writers out there, who do it the way they're suppose to, who shouldn't be gathered into the lump sum of "we all are cheaters, liars and thieves and can't be taken seriously".

I'm so tired of hearing it, I can't find offense in other's people's ignorance anymore. At least, for myself and many that I know, we don't play the "fair is fair" game and demean other writers or genres.

Dana Belfry said...

I want you to know I'm stealing the phrase craptastic morons. And they say Oxford only turns out MPs.

Chrissy said...

I think craptastic may have originated with Smart Bitches, to be intellectually proprietarily correct... but I feel it is part of the lexicon now.

Mwah!!

Katie Reus said...

Not to copy Jennifer, but Amen! I think you said perfectly what a lot of us are feeling right now :)

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

Excellent post, Chrissy!

R.G. ALEXANDER said...

Great Post!

MJ said...

I second, third, and fourth your comments on this matter. (Especially craptastic, I really like that for some reason) A very true and tactful point made here. Kudos to you!

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