This post has evolved a bit from when I first decided to write it. It was going to be one thing and as time went and the more time I had to reflect it became less about unleashing every furious thought spinning through my head. Instead, rather than looking at the event itself, I found myself more interested in people’s reaction to it.
First, some background (and a tiny bit of unleashing a little of my fury), you have already probably seen the article “A Roundup of the Season’s Romance Novels” published by the New York Times, written by Robert Gottlieb. And then the subsequent response by the NYT to the backlash this created in “Who Gets to Write Romance?” piece. Firstly, both these articles managed to absolutely infuriate me. They were condescending and out of touch. Gottlieb managed to cram in his obvious disdain for us little women and a bit of racism in a relatively small amount of space. All whilst ignoring a majority of what makes romance such a fantastic and diverse genre, which empowers not only women, but those in the LGBTQ community (a faction he managed to completely overlook – once again showing his ignorance) and anyone who wants to read something emotionally fulfilling. And, hell, anyone who just wants to read something fun or sexy.
*takes deep breath and counts to 10*
Anyways, as much as I positively ACHE to describe how each and everything sentence written was a general insult to anyone who has written or read a romance novel, that’s not what this Random Thoughts is about. Although that was my original plan. And, if you want to read some of the brilliant and intelligent rebuttals to the original argument I have provided a list of them at the bottom of this for you to read. If you’re anything like me, you’ll also be nodding along, pumping your first and shouting “hells yeah” as you go.
Now, back to my thought evolution! As time went on I become much more interested in reading the posts from other bloggers and writers in response as well as the comments left on the articles themselves. The more I read, the less interested I became in the original NYT article and the more my anger waned. Instead I found another feeling taking its place.
Pride. Love. Community.
So many people responded with such intelligence and passion, a majority of whom were romance readers themselves, but some who weren’t. These feelings of pride and warmth grew. Society has taught us that reading romance novels is something to be ashamed of, something that should be hidden; something that Gottlieb’s article managed to reinforce with his obvious contempt for the genre. And yet. Yet readers and writers have completely dispelled this myth that romance is for bored housewife or people who aren’t smart enough to read any thing else. I think it showed the romance readers are intelligent, successful women and not only that, that the romance readers and writers are a community.
And the more I read, the more Gottlieb’s sly jeering got pushed to the back of my mind. Instead, I got reminded why I love romance so much. No doubt it has awful books under its banner and as someone who is more critical than most I understand that not every book is going to be wonderful. But, aren’t all genres like that? Maybe romance isn’t as pretentious as more literary works, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to offer to the world. There are romances that give you something fun and sexy to feel good about as well as romances that offer thoughtful reflection and perspectives on difficult subjects and, guess what?
Sometime they can do both at the same time.
I have finished off many romance novels that have made me think deeply about subjects that perhaps I hadn’t given much thought to before. And as the cherry on top some of those books made me laugh and had a great sex scene.
However, I don’t need to justify my love for romance, just as the man I sat opposite on the train didn’t need to justify to me why he was enjoying the latest jumping-out-of-an-exploding-helicopter-into-a-yacht-then-diving-into-sexy-lady’s-undies-to-celebrate thriller aimed at men with James Bond fantasies. Nor does someone else reading classic fiction need to explain why they’ve decided to take up some Dostoevsky. The only difference between us is that I feel I have to hide the cover of my book lest I be disdained for reading “mummy porn”. And articles like Gottlieb’s just continue this type of thinking. But I wonder…romance is a billion dollar industry and if romance stopped being written, and romance readers stopped reading…what would happen then?
To conclude, when I originally started planning this post, I very much did it with anger raging through my veins. I doubt if anything I would have written would have been cohesive or make sense to anyone but me. I can be passionate but not terribly cogent when riled. But, as my mind settled I saw all the support and abhorrence from others, all saying exactly what I was thinking albeit much more coherently, it suddenly made me so fiercely proud to be part of the romance community. I love all books, but I particularly love romance books and in its own twisted way this whole palaver reminded why.
Responses I loved:
Let me know…why do you love romance?
What was your reaction to this?
Annnnnd I will stop myself there, before I start waxing lyrical about my love of historical romance and fantasy as well; no one needs to know about my elf fantasies. As you can tell, I adore and day dream about most romance genres, and my three big loves are 1) reading about romance 2) writing about romance and 3) talking about romance with my gals. Which, is why I love Under the Covers so much, I get all my bookish needs satisfied and don’t get judged when I talk about my favourite characters like they are real people. Which they are right?