17 June 2007
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