Monday, August 16, 2010

Romance novels vs. "Serious" Lit

I have a weakness for Nora Roberts books. Cringe all you like. It’s probably linked to my obsession with bad reality tv, is it a little smutty? Then I like it. I was traveling this weekend, and managed to read all of the magazines I had brought with me. There happened to by a Nora Roberts novel, Tears of the Moon laying around. So, I picked it up and brought it with me. I had read her book The Reef one summer, and was totally sucked into the story immediately. It made me want to run off on a boat trip, start treasure hunting and live permanently in the Caribbean.

I figured the book would at the very least give me some entertainment on what turned out to be an absurdly long bus ride back to the city from Upstate NY (I hate you summer Sunday night traffic!). And I was right. I’m already 183 pages in since last night, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It has me itching to run off to Ireland and marry a pub owner. Yet, on the subway to work this morning I found myself a little ashamed to be pulling it out of my bag with it’s flowery purple and green cover, and title, it just screams romance novel.

It got me to thinking, why is romance such a scorned literary genre? According to Wikepedia, romance novels are the most popular genre, and made up 55% of all novel sales a few years back. Yet romance is condemned as silly, trivial, and even dirty lit. But the truth is in the numbers, it’s popular.

In academia, however, it is not taken seriously. I can vouch for the fact that in all of the courses I took leading to the completion of my major in English, I was never assigned a single piece of literature that even closely resembled a romance novel. Shakespeare’s romances, and some scandalous poetry were the closest we came. Madame Bovary edged toward the arena of detailing women’s love affairs, but was quite frankly too brutally boring to make it through.

As a case in point, a professor at Fordham University, my alma matter was secretly a romance writer for many years before she felt confident enough to reveal her true identity to her colleagues. Her real professor name is Mary Bly, her NY Times best selling pen name is Eloisa James.

Her writing is extremely popular, has been translated into 9 languages, and topped best seller lists. Yet she only “came out” as a romance writer in 2005 for fear that academia would not take her seriously if they knew of her extracurricular writing. Why do people discredit romance so much?

Romance novels are real page turners. They suck you in, and keep you in the story until the end, isn’t that what all writing is trying to accomplish? They sell TONS of books. Are other authors jealous? And they are just plain fun. Can more “serious” novelists claim that?

1 comment:

Mimi said...

my mom loves nora roberts! i think she's a really good writer! she's very popular. :)

p.s. i am a new follower. i hope you can come check out and maybe follow my blog too. thanks! :)

<3, Mimi


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