Romance Fiction – The Victim of Literary Tall Poppy Syndrome?

August 2, 2013 Reviews 0

I came across this blog post yesterday from M/M romance author Heidi Cullinan, and I just had to share it with you all.

Predictable Ignorance: LitFic Nitwits Once Again Snigger at Romance

There’s been plenty of response to it and the articles it references on Twitter and Facebook and I know that I have written about this sort of thing before on my personal Facebook page, but upon seeing this article, I felt it important to address the issue again.

Being a reader of romance, I am unfortunately all too familiar with the reactions a lot of people have to this branch of fiction. For some reason, there are those who believe that, because you choose to read a genre where people fall in love and have a happy ending, somehow you have no grip on reality and feel free to tell you that every single romance novel is the same. It is manifestly unfair to make assumptions about a genre of literature based on one experience (or no experience for that matter). Of course, there are common elements in romance novels, as there is in mystery or suspense. However there is no justification (at least in my opinion) for anyone to say all romance novels are the same. Simply not true.

In one of the articles Heidi Cullinan speaks about in her post, the author of In Defense of Nora Roberts, Grace McNamee, is apparently attempting to defend romance, yet she says this:

Now, I’m not going to pretend that these books are the same quality as Nabokov—as much as I’d like it to, Meg Cabot’s All American Girl won’t be passed down through the ages the way Lolita probably will, and it shouldn’t be.

Why shouldn’t books like that be passed down through the ages? Who is this person to judge what are, or what will become, seminal works of fiction?

The dictionary definition of seminal (taking away the medical one, of course) is as follows:

sem•i•nal (ˈsɛm ə nl)  adj.

2. highly original and influencing the development of future events: a seminal artist; seminal ideas.

So, if we are to take what Ms McNamee is saying as gospel, no romance novel will ever have enough impact or literary value to be considered influential to future authors or readers.

If you read your own article, Ms McNamee, you will find you have contradicted yourself with that statement. Immediately after saying that, this is said:

Without Meg Cabot, I might have stopped reading long before I discovered Jane Austen, Frances Burney, Samuel Johnson, and Jonathan Swift—the brilliant authors I now read for school and for fun. Without Meg Cabot, I might not be an English major.

So, basically what she is saying is that the books that are undeserving of being passed down through the ages are the very thing that has led her to discover the literature she reads now. They are her seminal books.

I am not ashamed at all to say that I read romance novels, and I am a big believer that no one should be ashamed to admit what they enjoy reading. Even if I don’t understand what attracts people to certain types of books, I am just glad people are out there enriching their lives through the written word. I consider myself reasonably intelligent, and I am fairly well educated. I’ve read across a vast range of genres, however it is romance fiction that has long since captured my reading attention. There are some amazingly gifted storytellers and wordsmiths writing romance in all its forms. People from all walks of life, all backgrounds and occupations, are involved in the creation of romantic fiction. I don’t expect anyone to enjoy exactly what I enjoy. Life would be so boring if that was the case. If you want to read about vampires and werewolves, serial killers, happy endings or you are a fan of 1000-page explorations of the inner workings of the toilet flush mechanism, good on you! If you are one of those who dislikes or is disinterested in romance, that’s perfectly OK as well. All I ask is that you don’t show your ignorance & spout misinformation in an effort to be “cool”. That sort of behaviour suits no one.

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