23 February 2010

In defence of the romance novel

I came across this article (In defense of romance: Proving the stereotypes wrong) in the Yale Herald, and since the turned up noses that romance novels often receive is one of my pet peeves, I thought I would share it, (or parts of it anyway).

Katherine Orazem investigates why romance novels do not get the respect (and love) they deserve.

This Sunday, The New York Times reviewed 15 books, including two mysteries, a book of poems, and a biography of Little Richard. One feature discussed Tim Dorsey’s popular crime stories, another a graphic novel of the young-adult series Twilight; there was even a list of 11 recommended recently-released paperbacks. But nowhere in the book section did the paper of record cover a romance novel—except on the bestseller list.

There, 10 of the 20 most-purchased paperback books this week were romances, and if anything, that’s an off-week for the genre. According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), romance fiction has the largest market share of any genre at 13.5 percent.

Here at Yale, this spring’s residential college seminar "Reading the Historical Romance,," taught by romance authors and Yale alumni Andrea DaRif, SY ’73, and Lauren Willig, BR ’99, received over 70 applications for its 15 spots. By almost any quantitative measure, romance novels are by far the most popular books in America. They’re also written and read almost exclusively by women. Perhaps that’s why a cursory glance at the book section of most media outlets would hardly show that they exist. ...

…The modern romance novel is generally considered to begin with Kathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower, published in 1972. That book, about a London orphan girl and a ship’s captain, was the first single-title romance to be published as an original paperback… But romance’s real roots are much earlier. For example, Regis’ work on the literary history of romance has traced the precursors of the genre back to Samuel Richardson’s 1740 epistolary novel Pamela, as well as works by heavyweights like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and E. M. Forster. ...

… Despite this history—and the fact that several books possibly classified as romance are already included in the traditional literary canon—from their earliest days romance novels have drawn criticism. [ ] But much of this criticism lumps romances together without considering the nuances and varieties of the category. As Vivanco said, "It’s a huge genre and if someone picks up a romance at random, it’s not likely that they’ll find one of the very best." Similarly, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, bestselling author of Nobody’s Baby But Mine and member of the RWA Hall of Fame, said, "Wholesale criticism of any literary genre strikes me as idiotic. Some books are awful, some mediocre, and some great regardless of genre."…

… attacks on romance novels do not only spring from literary critics concerned for the future of the novel as an art form; there are also the indignant accusations, often levied by women themselves, that romances are anti-feminist. [ ] Are the books, despite their popularity, bad for women? ...

… Others disagree. "Romances have heroines with real jobs (more than secretaries!) and personal goals (separate from their boyfriends!) and they not only have sex, but they have orgasms! My feeling has long been that romance novels brought the sexual revolution to real women," as the Editorial Director for Penguin US, who has worked in romance publishing for 30 years, put it."Housewives in Ohio didn’t hear about feminist debates in Ivy League institutions…and they didn’t pay attention to what Betty Friedan was doing. But they read Silhouette Desires."

Romance novels may also offer far more positive portrayals of women than is generally thought. "People who criticize romances for being misogynistic often haven’t really read them, or are referring to certain ‘Old Skool romances,’ an appellation used by the romance blog Smart Bitches Trashy Books for certain ’80s romances with what they call ‘Brutal Rapey Heroes’ from 30 years ago, which did have the stereotypical overbearing heroes and ingĂ©nue heroines. But even those romances had some really subversive messages," Willig said.

Phillips, whose female protagonists include brilliant physicist Dr. Jane Darlington and former first lady Cornelia Case, says that for her, romances are "a fantasy of female empowerment." The introduction to A Natural History of Romance makes a similar argument: Regis writes, "The genre is not about women’s bondage, as the literary critics would have it. The romance novel is, to the contrary, about women’s freedom. The genre is popular because it conveys the pain, uplift, and joy that freedom brings." …

The atricle goes on, but I think that's enough for a blog post :)
Read the whole article here.

Music: Massive Attack
Reading: 'Archangel's Kiss' by Nalini Singh

16 February 2010

Oh, the pathos

Music: Salmonella Dub
Currently reading: 'Angel's Blood' by Nalini Singh
Re-read as Archangel's Kiss has just been released

08 February 2010

Wild Rose Press wins

The Wild Rose Press wins the readers poll for book publisher of the year (2nd year in a row) at the Editors & Preditors web site.
The Editors & Preditors website performs the wonderful service of helping people winnow the good from the bad when it comes to Agents, Publishers etc...
NB: Keep an eye on The wild Rose Press website for 'Human with a Twist' out in July. I'll be running an exciting launch week blog competition prior to the launch date.
I'm also posting on the Black Roses of the Wild Rose Press blog on the 8th of Feb.
music: Iron Maiden
reading: 'Flesh Circus' by Lilith Saintcrow

02 February 2010

to spell or to misspell, that is the question

I'm a writer, so I thought a particularly writie (is that a word - it is now) post was due.
A lovely list of misspellings from The Oatmeal, (I also rather enjoyed How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You...)
But on to the misspellings:

Music: Massive Attack
Currently reading: 'The Eye of God' by Mark Kreighbaum
A sequel to 'Palace' which he wrote with Katharine Kerr, I've been looking for this book for ages