Of late I've been following some of Konrath's advice - well, I didn't know it was Konrath's advice, actually, until I read a great writing blog in my Twitter stream. Konrath says more writing and less of everything else. Unfortunately, that has led to...... less blogging as well. However, the recent piece by William Giraldi for New Republic has been stewing around in my unstable brain recently, demanding a response. I've dusted off my soapbox for the occasion.
Have you read Giraldi's piece? It is absolute proof that judgmental ignorance still flourishes amongst those who consider themselves 'better than the masses.' What masses? Well, their readers, their fellow writers, pretty much everyone with any other opinion. Yes, those people. I'd bet Giraldi is a card-carrying member of the P.C. Police and anyone who reads this blog knows my opinion of those specimens.
Giraldi's piece is part book-review (read book hatred) for a book by a woman, Eva Illouz, discussing and analyzing the "Fifty Shade of Grey" affect on culture and society. From the perspective of the New Republic article, I expect that one of the biggest of Illouz's problems is biology - she's a WOMAN. And Giraldi doesn't think much of women, especially women like Illouz and the amazing author of "Fifty Shades", Erika Leonard a/k/a "E.L. James. Illouz, Leonard and even, yours truly, the insane Duck Lady, have a big problem - we don't know our place. Rather, we don't know that our place isn't at a keyboard.
How does Giraldi feel about "Fifty Shades," its author and its fans?
A great many women indeed have been living it up while dumbing it down, titillated by a charlatan amorist who goes by the nom de plume of E.L. James. I'm made distinctly queasy by uttering that sacral American surname when referring to this empress of inanity, so let’s use her real name, Erika Leonard. She who has done so much to help debase our culture should stand revealed.
To be able to pontificate so profoundly, Giraldi must have made a close study, a dissection even, of the Fifty Shades trilogy, right? Well - not so much.
This is probably the spot to say that for the sake of this assignment I made a good faith effort to read these books at my city library, but I wasn't self-punishing enough actually to finish them and had to stop the agony halfway into the second volume.
If you haven't read it, from cover to cover, you are NOT in the least qualified to discuss it. The same goes for romance novels. What is Giraldi's opinion of the genre?
The trilogy’s assembly-line asininity is really a fomentation of the worst that can be believed about both sexes. Romance novels—parochial by definition, ecumenical in ambition—teach a scurvy lesson: enslavement to the passions is a ticket to happiness.
Sorry, no - actually, that's the BEST thing Giraldi says about the romance genre. IMHO, the worst is this:
Dreck of this stupendous caliber has a particular advantage over literature in that one doesn't have to read all of it to surmise, accurately and eternally, that it is all uniformly awful and awfully uniform—romance novels, like racists, tend to be the same wherever you turn. It's pointless to spend much time impugning these books as writing because they really aren't meant to be considered as actual writing, the same way a Twinkie wasn't meant to be considered as actual food. Books ejaculated this easily have the inverse effect of being extremely difficult to read. Leonard’s creations are the cartoonishly erotic suppurations of a hamstrung, not terribly bright adult trying to navigate a midlife crisis, and you get the feeling that the sentences arrived on the page as if by osmosis, unaided by even a sub-literate serf.
So, Giraldi thinks that romance novels aren't literature and they aren't writing any more than a Twinkie is food. The New Republic writer finds that romance novels are cartoonishly written and are to the literate world what racists are to society. You know what I find? I find that Mr. Giraldi's opinions of the romance genre are every bit as well-informed as his opinions of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy. It is so much easier to spout generalities meant to sound superior when you are not troubled by having any knowledge of your subject.
Giraldi says that just as Twinkies aren't meant to be "actual food", romances aren't meant to be actual writing. I agree that Twinkies aren't meant to appease physical hunger. A hungry person is more apt to reach for a hamburger than a Twinkie. A Twinkie is meant to appease a craving for something else, something more than physical hunger. A person might eat a Twinkie when she needs her mood lifted or wants to reward herself. In the same way, romance novels - like "Fifty Shades of Grey", like my/ Mary Anne Graham "Forever Series"/ like my Olivia Outlaw "Sultan's Toy Series" - romance novels feed the soul and elevate the spirit. Like a Twinkie, a romance novel sometimes just helps you go on believing, hoping, existing.
If you want to read something that makes you feel like eating a bowl of prunes, wearing a monacle and sneering at the world, then perhaps you should pick up something by Mr. Giraldi. If you want to read something that makes you feel like eating a Twinkie, wearing a smile and cheering for the human experience, then perhaps you should pick up a romance novel.
Most women - and some very special men - are smart enough to know that sometimes you have to feed your heart, your soul and your spirit. If we don't do that often enough we risk becoming a prune-eating, monacle-wearing nation. A romance novel, anyone?