Monday, February 25, 2008

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means To Me

One thing it seems I can count on in Romancelandia- someone, somewhere, sometime, is going to blog about how the rest of the literary community views our beloved genre. Specifically, about how in spite of huge numbers and a huge readership, we don’t get the Respect We Deserve.

Some snotty critic at some snooty publication will say something about the drivel women read- and the obvious intellect deficiencies we must have for reading it- and we all take it as the first shot across the bow. People have been known to get trampled in the rush to defend ourselves with statistics about the readership, how most of us are college educated with important, responsible jobs, and that the view of the romance reader as a stupid, crumpet-challenged housewife in curlers eating bon-bons is both misogynistic and wrong.

All of which is true. Every genre in fiction gets spat upon by literary critics to a certain extent, but please. Anything written primarily by women for women is going to get the shaft. But there’s another war for respect that doesn’t get as much play. A civil war, if you will, and I’ll take the first shot.

I read Harlequin Presents, and I don’t care who knows it.

There are plenty of closet readers of all kinds of romances, too scared to fess up in the comments of many blogs, because there is a definite hierarchy of what is proper romance reading, and what is stupid trash. It’s fine to love Kinsale or Phillips or Roberts, but to admit to liking Cassie Edwards is a sure fire way to get oneself roasted. There’s an attitude of, “Come on. Everyone knows that stuff is awful, and any women who read it must be…” Misguided? Foolish? Dead from the neck up? Many won’t say straight up STOOPID but the idea definitely comes across.

Of course which books qualify as ‘awful’ depends on whom you talk to. I mentioned the acceptable/non-acceptable rift in single title; but a lot of people think all single title is fine. Category, however, does not have real books. Those are practice for authors who want to go on to write actual books. And the hordes of readers who buy category books, even subscribe to them monthly? They obviously have appallingly low standards.

Even among category readers, there is a division. Mention a Blaze or an Intrigue or Historical, and there’s no problem. But let one whiff of a Greek, a Sheikh, or an Italian Businessman with a Runaway Pregnant Mistress waft by and you’ll get fried nine ways from Sunday. YOU, my girl, are what’s wrong with romance, and why we don’t get no respect.

It’s been said that you have to pick your battles. And I don’t know how we can spend the energy fighting the literary establishment for respect when we don’t even extend it to each other. So I will stay in my happy place, ignoring the snotty critic whose respect I don’t want anyway, and feel glad that there are enough flavors in romance for everyone. I will immerse myself in a world where a maid will think nothing of running away from the rich boss who’s impregnated her, preferring to raise the baby in poverty but keep her pride, and revel in the fact that the rich, ruthless, really handsome boss won’t wipe his brow in relief that she’s gone but hunt her down and demand his rights as a father and lover.

And I just might do it in my curlers, whilst eating bon-bons. And if anyone thinks I have the intellectual agility of a soapdish because of it, let me put this as clearly and succinctly as I possibly can: PPppppllllllfffffftttttt.


StarvingWriteNow said...

I've never been a "presents" fan myself, but I plan to pick up a couple this week in support of your curlers & bon bons. Any faves you'd recommend?

I totally don't get why one faction would criticise another. The great thing about romance is that it's so diverse--if it was all the same, it would be so boring!

Robyn said...

It's hard to recommend because they change every month, although I always like Lucy Monroe. If you want to e-mail me with your snail mail, I'll send you a couple of my faves. But you have to buy your own bon-bons.

Missie said...

Am too doped up on cold medicine/pain medicine to follow a story right now.

I will just take the bon-bons, kthxbai.

Robyn said...

I'm sorry you're sick, Missie! I have re-caught the cold my son originally gave me from my darling husband. Am dousing my house in Lysol inbetween reading and bon-bons.

December/Stacia said...

I'm always surprised when I hear/see people complaining about the covers and what people on the bus/subway might think. Like I give a f*ck what a bunch of people I don't know or care about think of me or my reading habits.

Robyn said...

Exactly, December. It's not like I'm reading The Anarchist's Cookbook or How To Blow Up People On The Subway.

Bernita said...

I'm with December on that.
I thought the main purpose of romance was entertainment and enjoyment.
If I want to be "improved" I'll read the dictionary.