ROMANTIC SNOBBERY

It isn’t just culture that divides us into classes. What we watch on television, see in the movies, and read also puts us into a category, often unfairly by people who don’t “get” why we like what we like.

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I read a post about how dreadful — yet gripping — romance novels can be. The not-so-subtle insinuation is that anyone who reads them is probably not too bright. While it’s true that romance novels are the potato chips of the literary world (bet you can’t eat just one) that’s not the point.

double dip in bookcase

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I assure you that research showed readers of romance novels are better educated than most readers.

They read romance novels because they are pulp. These readers aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down, and forget. If life gets in the way, they can just never finish the story — without regret.

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I read each 3-book volume, every month. Three romances: 2 modern with a Gothic sandwiched between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would prefer people enjoy, people don’t always read good books. I often avoid “good” books. I don’t want to go where that book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it. Don’t enjoy the subject matter. Don’t need to be further depressed by the ugly realities of life or history.

Good books can be too intense, too serious, or educational for this moment in time. Too close to reality. I read to be entertained. I’m not seeking enlightenment through literature. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment through literature. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

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The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many. Enough genres, themes, and styles for everyone. An infinity of literature. No matter what your taste — low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

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I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too.

Snobs suck the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s okay with me. I love reading about vampires and witches. I’d be more than a hypocrite to act as if your taste is inferior to mine.

old favorite books

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for anything serious — except maybe a conversation. Tastes change over time. Life has been a very serious business for me. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I want to escape, Reality will still be there when I get back.

Finally, my favorite professor at university — a man I believe was profound and wise — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was a much truth in those books. I believe for him, there was.



Categories: Arts, Books, Daily Prompt, Entertainment, Literature, Movies, Television

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. Absolutely, 110% agree. Book snobs seem to think that in order to be ‘worthy’, a book has to be angst-ridden and hard work. I’ve had enough real-life angst, thanks very much, and I’d venture to suggest my brain is still capable of working more effectively than theirs if push comes to shove.What’s more I’d take a bet that most of them don’t enjoy the books they laud. It’s all a lot of pretentious image-worship.

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  2. I loved this post. As a teenager I used to think my mother’s reading tastes were not really all that great. In Australia, romance novels came under “Mills and Boon” imprint. I used to look down upon them, never read them. Recently I’ve been reading how romance novels sell so much – and I read a couple online. gotta say, your potato packet analogy is great – you can’t stop at one! As you say, pure escapism. People are happy to watch crappy movies in the name of escapism, why is it that romance novels get so ‘looked down upon’. they are what they are.

    I loved the photos of all the books in your library in this post too. 🙂

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    • My mother used to say “No one was ever ruined by a book.” I’m not sure she was right, but I figure if you are reading anything, you are ahead of the curve. In the course of our lives, we will all read at all levels about all kinds of things. There’s a time and place for everything, especially in the world of books.

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  3. I enjoyed reading pulp fiction as an escape from the stresses of my training and job. I didn’t have to think too much about them and as you said you just forgot about them and moved onto the next book. They were great reading on the night shift. You didn’t have to remember where you were when you got back to the book after the inconvenience of having to nurse actual patients. I read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which won the Booker Prize a couple of years ago – it was set in New Zealand and just had to be the worse book I have ever read. Give my 10 pulp books any day than make me read that again.

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  4. This is a great posting and as a romance writer, I love your analogies and opinions. Great Posting!

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  5. I read a lot of urban gothic-type stuff. Easy to read. The last thing I want is to have my mind expanded in complicated ways when I’m trying to relax 🙂

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    • When I was a kids, I read a lot of important literature, but I really enjoyed it. That was the right time for me and it. Now isn’t the right time. Now, reality is full of its own stresses and I don’t want more. I want to disengage the brain and make it slow down, take a breather. Time and context. It’s all time and context.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think every book gives away a lot of its being, it educates you in the way that you choose to be educated.
    Snobbery is stupid, it makes you miss out on fun things. Bad books and bad TV is only in our minds, no book is bad. But material lies in our choice.
    Romance is fun to me, it educates me about life and love and fascination.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember my dear old Granny had a bunch of paperback romance novels stacked on the bookstand next to the recliner at her house. I wouldn’t read them, but I loved going through the stack of scandal sheets that were also strewn amongst the books. My favorite was the Weekly World News, which was intentionally absurd… and maybe where I got some of my wackiness from.

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    • I don’t actually read romance novels — I only read them when I was editing them — BUT I will read pretty much anything with werewolves, witches, time travel, or vampires. It’s not better taste. Just different!

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  8. I don’t usually read romance novels but my mother did. She read the Angelique series. So I decided to read them too just to see what she got out of them. It was a real escape.
    Leslie

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  9. I don’t read romance, I don’t like romance, it is for me boring. Otherwise I am not fussy, I read a bit of everything. Have spent the last ten years catching up on the German classics that I never read in England. If I run out of ideas I have a look in the bestseller lists and see if there is anything that I might fancy.

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  10. I read mysteries – lots of them. 🙂

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  11. This is great! Thanks for writing this.

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  12. A college professor once handed me a book and stated “you should read this.” On the cover it said “a story of heart-ache and anguish…” or something along those lines. I handed it back to her and said “I live a story of heart-ache and anguish — why would I want more of that? Now if you could recommended a good, trashy romance novel……” Escapism is what I need from time-to-time. Great post.

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  13. I read to learn. I also read to be entertained. There is nothing wrong with either. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hmmmm. Now you have me thinking. I grew up reading cheap romance novels in boarding school in the night. I am not kidding we weren’t allowed to read them during the day, so some of us got up and we met in the bathroom and read them. The little paperback books were easy to read. -They met between page 1-10, then there was a misunderstanding for about 250 pages and they made up on the last 3 pages 🙂

    I have always 3 books that I am reading. One is “brain food”, mostly a biography or a book about history. The second one is a good crime story, a great chick flick or anything else that I picked up or a book that people recommended.

    Then there is book #3, it’s mostly a cookbook or craft book.

    I read a lot and almost everything…just not Danielle Steel.

    Romance Novels or romantic literature has to be realistic these days. I want to feel something…anything 🙂

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    • There are great romances too. Some of it, deathless literature … but I was specifically referring to “genre romance” which is just what you described. The handsome guy, the gorgeous girl, usually an exotic locale. Nothing dangerous ever happens and everyone live happily ever after. It’s great for subway reading, toilet literature. It’s not serious, but that’s the point. If you wanted something with meaning, you’d be reading a different book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Exactly! I read it too, there are days when I don’t want to think. Just read a Kristin Hannah novel, very good…lots of mistakes in the history department..but who cares, it was a great romance novel aka chickflick. I loved it 🙂

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      • Mickey Spillane was my first literary hero. Mike Hammer my first fiction hero.
        “My Gun Is Quick” and “Kiss Me Deadly” are classics enjoyed by many larger than life people whose names might surprise you.
        Darren McGavin was the best Mike Hammer.
        And, Velda is still the best secretary ever.

        Liked by 1 person

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