The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

17 June 2007

Known quantities

The romance novel is the Rodney Dangerfield of literature: it gets no respect. Michael Carr suggests a reason:

I think the reason romance isn't respected as a genre is the same reason why Hostess Snacks aren't respected as desserts. They may be tasty, you may love them, may even prefer them to something like tiramisu, but they fit within a narrow band of possibilities: Twinkies, HoHos, Ding Dongs. You know what you're going to get, and if you bite into a Twinkie to discover some sort of coffee-flavored chocolate filling, you're going to say, "This is not a Twinkie."

No credit for shelf life? Twinkies seem to last forever, assuming you've forgotten where you hid the box and therefore can't actually eat them.

Admittedly, it's not a broad genre, and we like our commodities clearly delineated:

For better or worse, Harlequin et al. have put themselves in the business of turning romance into a small number of recognizable and reproducible shapes. It constrains the author but it also means that a reader knows exactly what she's getting when she picks up a novel. The publishers further refine this by coming up with narrower labels. Say, Silhouette Intimate Moments, or Harlequin Intrigue.

The thing is, romance fits so nicely into all those other genres. You can put it in science fiction, in adventure, into suspense. You can make a startling, unexpected movie, like Shakespeare in Love, that is, at its heart, a romance story. The non-Romance reading public simply would not see a connection between a movie like this and the bare-chested, bulging pants heroes in the racks of romance novels they see at the supermarket.

Truth be told, I never noticed the pants, and if I have a lick of sense, I won't in the future.

Sometimes I wonder if the romance genre would be less disrespected if its audience weren't so overwhelmingly female. (Apologies to all you big, burly Brontë fans out there.)

Posted at 6:24 PM to Almost Yogurt


Sometimes I wonder if the romance genre would be less disrespected if its audience weren't so overwhelmingly female.

That statement is sort of depressing. Just because there's something that has a primarily female contingent is grounds for getting dissed? To get respect, one must get male approval?

What's the male equivalent of literary twinkies? Action/adventure, noir, superhero comics?

Posted by: sya at 9:14 PM on 17 June 2007

Interesting relevant fact: the "formula" novels produced by Harlequin et alii have a shelf life of one month. Any that haven't sold within thirty days of distribution to retailers are called back and destroyed.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 3:51 AM on 18 June 2007

Just because there's something that has a primarily female contingent is grounds for getting dissed? To get respect, one must get male approval?

It's not legitimate grounds, you may be sure, but the mindset exists in some deep, dark corner somewhere, occasionally popping its head out long enough to remind people of its existence.

Twinkies are good for well over a month.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:05 AM on 18 June 2007

If you replace the word "romance" with the word "pr0n" your entry would be almost unchanged.

at least that's what I have been told.

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" at 7:08 AM on 18 June 2007