Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Intellectualization of Romance

Now come on, you know what this is right? Right. It's a socio-political contemplation of the paradigm of sensuality versus autonomy as prevelant in modern culture versus feminist theory.

And you thought it was just a silly clinch cover, didn't you?

There seems to be a lot of brainy types discussing romance nowadays and elevating it to the levels of intelligensia masterbation as they've done to Hemingway, Faulkner and Flowers in the Attic.

Romance is:

Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. Happy ending.

Viscount seduces maid. Maid loses head. Viscount marries Lady who has secret sensual side. Happy ending.

Girl meets vampire/shifter/immortal being. Girl and vampire/shifter/immortal being fight. Vampire/shifter/immortal being turns girl immortal. Happy ending.

Romance is simple. It has a happy ending. It has people falling in love. Sometimes someone saves someone else. Sometimes they're funny and sometimes they're both men. Sometimes there's a world built and sometimes they wear crinoline.

Carolyn expressed dismay to me the other day. "I didn't know you need a college degree to read romance," she cried. "I barely got through sixth grade."

Oh Carolyn, I know what you mean.

Currently I'm finishing Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase. (So I can read Last Night's Scandal by Loretta Chase.) It's sigh worthy wonderful. The characters are brilliantly drawn out, the story moves at an excellent pace, the writing is approachable and studded with humor. If you haven't read Loretta Chase, stop reading this blog post and go order her. NOW!!

However, I'd be really pretending to see any way one could take this novel and turn it into a socio-economic treatise of feminine mystique versus masculine meandering.

Can't we just read a book because it's a wonderful form of escapism written by some talented women who just get it?


  1. What I want to know is, how come I'm always misquoted!

    I finished junior high. :p

    Here's a quote for ya: I gave up sex for Lent and I never got it back. Heh. Has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of this post, but now I feel witty.

    Can you have romance without sex? Because sex is really, really hard to write (if I have more than two sex scenes in a book, I run out of orifaces). So I think I'll stick to a lot of lusting and inadvertent touches and such.

    That's about as intelligent as I get. LOL.

  2. I know what you mean Lori. Do you think this intellectualisation has something to do with readers needing to justify reading books with ridiculously lurid covers? I mean, I finished a Claudia Dain book yesterday with more man-titty than was good for anyone.

    The book was great but the cover was cringeworthy.

    I read romance because I love my HEAs. Those are the films I watch at the cinema too - oh and those that make me laugh.

    I really can do without the angst, metaphor and self consciousness found in so called proper books and arthouse movies.

    All I want is characters who make me care about them, in situations that excite my imagination. It's that simple really.

    I'm glad you are rereading Lord Perfect. I did the same before starting Last night's Scandal too - and I'm really glad I did.

    The characters have maintained their integrity across both books.

    Of course I then felt obliged to re read all of the Carsington books... and the Last Hellion AND LOS.

    Not that it was any hardship at all - but my TBR pile was put into a holding pattern while I glommed out on Ms Chase's gorgeous writing.

    I can hardly wait now for her next one. I hope it's the next Carsington one.

  3. Cheryl: what's fascinating to me is that Ms. Chase is one of the finest writers I've read in many years. And she writes simple romance. Although her writing is anything but simple she isn't showing class differences or studying the effects of horse farts on the atmosphere...

    All these scholarly blogs turning romance into something respectable are ignoring the fact that they're insulting the very genre they love.

    Romance is respectable. It has writers like Loretta Chase who is brilliant. It has readers like us who can recognize quality writing. And readers who love it just because it's what they love.

    To have to pretty up romance for the intellegensia is unnecessary. It already wins.

  4. Sorry Lori, I didn't stop reading this blog to go and look for... umm.. hang on, I have to scroll back up...

    Loretta. I'll get to her eventually. Perhaps. Or not lol. But you are so right - why can't we read just for the hell of it? People are bitching about computer games and the internet etc taking kids away from books (or eReaders :P) so why make people feel stupid if htey don't get all the intellectual stuff that's hidden in the words?

    I'm certainly not the brightest spark in the plug and couldn't find any 'hidden philosophies or theories' etc in the words - even with a Melways and a compass. But I love to read because it allows me to escape real life for a bit, put myself in to the shoes of the characters and travel or have adventures I'm never going to have in real life.

    Whether it's fiction or non fiction, I don't pick it up to read because it will make me appear smart and witty and thoughtful etc. I pick it up because the cover catches my eye, a friend recommends it, I've seen the movie or I've read teh back and it's appealed to me.

    Carolyn, thanks for the visual of the orifices lol. Being visual is great for reading you know :D And I'm sure you can romance without sex. At least I hope so. I don't know or want to know about my folks (eww) but at their age Dad still does the odd romantic thing for my mum - buy her flowers, take her out for a dinner etc. Who's to say that younger people aren't the same? If it's all about sex then that's just sad really.

    Cheryl, I guess it's true what they say - don't judge a book by it's cover. Although, I have to admit to picking up a book and buying it (second hand you know) because the guy on the front looked like Emilio Estevez. I've had hte book some 15 years and haven't read it yet. I think it was about kings and queens and stuff...


    So, I guess in answer to your question Lori, yes we CAN read a book because it's a wonderful form of escapism. Leave the brainiacs to pull apart, analyse, de-contruct, be anal about who does what and why etc. The rest of us can sigh, laugh, cry along with the characters as we travel along their journey with them. Escapism rules!

    On that note, I'm off to read a book sent to me by a friend about a Navy Seal - Hoorah!

  5. This reminds me of why I chose not to further my education in English lit after university: every time I was faced with the idea of dissecting a thrilling page-turner and finding a message I couldn't shake the idea that maybe the author had written this just because they had a great story to tell.

    That's all I ask for as a reader: keep me turning those pages and just let me get lost in the story.

  6. I had someone commenting on a ff I was posting long ago and she was really giving some great in depth analysis. At the time I was writing it, I wasn't aware I was so damn deep!

    I mean, I just had this story in my head and was getting it out. Writing what seemed right. And it turned out I was being deliberately intelligent.

    Go figure.