What’s this? You need an excuse to bank your head in that nice head-shaped divot on your desk? We here at SB HQ are happy to assist, as is Zumie, who sent me these excerpts from her creative writing textbook, The College Handbook of Creative Writing by Robert DeMaria.
Excerpt the first, from page 16:
“Male-female relationships have become very complex since the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. Nowhere has the loss of tradition and structure in society caused more confusion than in the relationships between men and women. Romeo and Juliet may have had their problems, but they knew exactly where they stood and what was expected of them. Today’s proliferation of paperback romances may be an escapist reaction to the confusion, or even a simplistic way of dealing with the varieties of interpersonal problems. There are also, of course, many worthwhile literary works on the subject, most of them by women who have been writing with greater freedom in an atmosphere of liberation—writers such as Alice Walker and Cynthia Ozick.
But wait, there’s more! Excerpt the second, from page 20:
The broad literary spectrum ranges from the silliest kind of romance or comic book adventure to the works of such major literary figures as Herman Melville and Jane Austen. Some critics try to draw the line and create criteria for what they call true literature, as opposed to mere entertainment or downright junk. Drawing a precise line is always a bit arbitrary, and not really necessary. What we have is a continuum from the very trivial to the very important. Since the range is very wide, some of the material between these extremes can prove quite interesting without actually being worldshaking. What good fiction, poetry, or drama does for us is leave us with the feeling that our experience has been expanded vicariously and that perhaps we know something afterward that we did not know before. In other words, good literature has an impact that, in some way, changes the reader. Trivial literary entertainments such as thrills and romances and television dramas, however, cannot be dismissed with contempt. They have a role to play in the lives of many people, and many of the writers involved find such work a pleasant and profitable form of employment, though significance in such works is clearly minimal. Their aim is to thrill, chill, and titillate. Frank Lloyd Wright once described television as “chewing gum for the eyes.” It’s an excellent description of that medium and might also apply to most of our light literature. Chewing gum gives you a lot of action but no nourishment. Great literature, on the other hand, is full of emotional, spiritual, and intellectual nourishment.
I love the dancing tango of “Have I insulted you? Have I? No, how about now? How about now?” that DeMaria is playing here with that added dollop of piquant elitism. It’s not necessary to draw a line between the erudite and the junk (but romances are junk) and even romance has a role to play in the lives of their readers (ignominious fools though they are). Jesus fucknuts, what kind of self-absorbed superiority fix is this guy on in the quest to teach creative writing? Thrill, chill, and titillate in the absence of emotional, spiritual, and intellectual nourishment? MY ASS, SIR.
I bet he giggled when he typed “titillate,” too.
What an outrageous pity that this boneheaded statement is being used to instruct a venue of creative encouragement. Discouragement is more like it. Pass me a romance. Preferably a hardback. So I can aim it at his groin.