Monday, 12 September 2011

Shameful little secrets

I don't think I'm the only writer who admits only under extreme duress that she writes... [looks around furtively] ...romance. The few times I foolishly admitted to the fact that, yeah, I do a bit of scribbling, I was bombarded with 'Oprah' comments, and talk about 'the great West Indian novel'. Romance was nowhere to be spotted amid the thronging expectations of literary outpourings.

In my circle, few admit to even reading romance; writing it is beyond the pale. Those who read it don't do so openly, and if caught in the act mumble some shame-faced excuse about having 'confiscated' the book from a student. (Borrowed, more likely!) I've seen that scenario played out countless times.

And what about the overwhelming response to romance novels from the male half of the population? Dismissal, snickers, 'girl porn' comments, and the general opinion that no woman with half a brain would read (or write) the stuff. According to the popular mythology, romance novels are the preserve of:
  • The girl behind the counter at the drugstore, twirling a lock of purple hair and snapping her chewing gum, maybe.
  • Gauche schoolgirls, definitely.
  • The old spinster librarian with parchment skin and wattles, glaring over her glasses at the boys and girls flirting instead of doing their research, and hiding a lurid bodice-ripper under her copy of Dostoevsky.
  • The downtrodden wife trapped in a miserable marriage.
  • The anti-feminists.
But mature, smart, professional women? Never. They - we - don't stoop to such lows.

Well, surprise, surprise. We do. And after decades, or centuries rather, of being treated with scorn and ridicule by the literary establishment, the romance genre seems to finally, finally be coming into its own. It's becoming so respectable, in fact, that men are jostling to join the ranks of romance writers and many popular authors, formerly hidden behind their pseudonyms, are coming forward and revealing that they're smart, professional women. Some are young. Some are happily married, and feminist to the core. Some are college professors. Some are all of the above. They read romance - and they write it too.

You don't believe me, do you. Well, take a gander at this USA Today article: Scholarly writers empower the romance genre. It's all about college professors working undercover as romance authors and attending Princeton University conferences on the genre. Smart women have always read and written great stories, including romances. The difference now is that, more and more, they're not ashamed to admit it.

Liane Spicer

5 comments:

Debs Carr said...

I love romantic novels and am always surprised when people say they don't. They don't know what they're missing!

Dr. Laurence Brown said...

Reading romance is not a shameful act. I really love the article. Thank you

Alexander said...
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Liane Spicer said...

Debs, exactly! I'll read pretty much any genre if it's a good story - even horror which I don't seek out usually.

Liane Spicer said...

Dr. Lawrence Brown, thank you for visiting! Pedophilia - that's shameful. Reading romance? Not.