Got an Hour?

Ok, if you have that hour, go get another one. Got two? Ok, good.

Go check out this mammoth thread wherein a discussion about Allen’s WaPo article becomes a huge, erudite, and point-by-point discussion in defense of and about romance novels. Originally, the author of the post, hilzoy, made what many considered an unfair and ill-advised comment as to the value of romance novels, dismissing them as the equivalent to sudoku or porn. Porn, yeah, but sudoku? That’s a new one.

But wait, it gets awesome. The defense of romance in the hugely long comment thread is a big wow.

No, really. Erudite and entertaining. And it’s HUGE. I’m not even done reading it yet. Have a look.

EDITED TO ADD: My bad! I forgot – graceful curtsy to Cyranetta for the link!


General Bitching...

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  1. 1

    “the appropriate response is: what do you mean “we”, white man?”

    That stopped me cold. Man, when I grow up, maybe, if I’m really, really lucky, I’ll get to be as smart as this person.

    Okay, back to reading The Wooly Mammoth of All Blog Posts…

  2. 2
    KateyJ says:

    Some of the responces are quite good! for and against romance…

    And as for the comment that romances are ‘well-known’ to be female pornography, (not that I really believe it to be so) then all I can say is thank the small gods! My choice of porno doesn’t offend much, doesn’t exploit, and doesn’t spread STDs. It doesn’t break any laws, doesn’t involve children or snuff, and all it takes is a small amount of money and my consent to read. And I can read it anywhere.
    Romances don’t make me feel bad or dirty. They elevate me – and the pursuit of true happiness can be found nowhere better than between the pages of a good genre romance.
    Ms. Allen seems something of a twit. Nice way to bring down the entire sex, girl. If reading ‘chick lit’ makes me lose a few intelligence points, than all I can hope is that it is not as many, nor will ever be as many as Ms. Allen has apparently lost.

  3. 3
    JesB says:

    Gary Farber’s post gave me girl wood.  He’s my new hero.  Incidentally, in case anyone was wondering, your left tit is not a book.

  4. 4
    GrowlyCub says:

    Interesting side note.  An author recently made a rather passionate comment on how her romance writing is in no way porn and cannot be compared to what certain other writers of erotica/porn write.

    This off-hand statement by hilzoy might shed light on the misunderstandings in that discussion…

    With women ‘friends’ like Allen and hilzoy, we don’t need enemies. 

    states54: hmm, not yet, but who knows there may be 54 States one of these days.

  5. 5
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Can we adopt Gary right alongside Paul Tolmé?


  6. 6
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Characterizing a genre as made up only of its bad and mediocre stuff, and defining anything good as not-genre, is the classic boot-stomp of dismissal. The good and great books and stories of a genre are every bit of that genre as the crap.

    Jesus God, if I could sew worth a damn, I’d stitch that onto a sampler.

  7. 7
    Cora says:

    The best thing about that thread is that we have men, yes men, defending romance novels.

    And I’d second the vote to adopt Gary Farber.

    finally55: Uhm, actually I still have a few decades to that one.

  8. 8
    Nora Roberts says:

    Damn you, Sarah!!

    It’s astonishing, really, to get sucked into two discussions that say Romance=porn.

    I guess I’d better get off the interwebs and get back to writing another pornographic unbook while releasing my shadow and embracing the goddess. (To merge the two discussionsl.)

  9. 9
    Jane says:

    I third the motion to adopt Gary Farber.  What an awesome defense of the romance genre.  He should be the poster penis for the romance industry.

  10. 10
    TrustMe_2_Forget says:

    OMG!  what a load of crap…but I HAVE to read all the responses(will find time later ~ tonight after work and after I read my non-book that a un-imaginative writer put to paper)! 

    YES YES YES to the adopt Gary Farber…love him!  need to send big thank you to him…

  11. 11
    azteclady says:

    *huge smile*

    Thank you, SBSarah, thank you Cyranetta!

    THANK YOU, Gary Farber.

  12. 12
    Lorelie says:

    Can we adopt Gary right alongside Paul Tolmé?


    And I’d second the vote to adopt Gary Farber.

    I third the motion to adopt Gary Farber.

    All in favor, say aye.

    Motion carries.

    Do we get him a plaque or write him an email?

  13. 13
    whey says:

    I nth the motion to do whatever is appropriate to/with/on/for Gary Farber.  No idea who he is, but I like the way his brain works and his ability to communicate it to and for others.

  14. 14
    Julianna says:

    Plaque?  Email?  SmartBitch title for gallant defence of the genre?

  15. 15
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Well, I skimmed the comments where they were all “yes-ma’am”ing on the original statement. I was interested in the pro-romance comments, and there were some great ones.

    I’m tired of this particular argument. What’s so bad about relationships? A book can’t have value if the main characters don’t die or spend their lives being punished?

    Look, I’ve never read Atonement. It’s supposed to be the best thing ever, right? From synopses, it doesn’t sound like my sort of thing, but I don’t go ‘round calling McEwan’s readers knobheads.

    Romance novels can be beautifully or poorly written, just like any other work of fiction. I don’t understand what’s so bad about books that offer a ray of light in a world that’s already dark enough.

  16. 16
    Anji says:

    A very erudite and well-informed defense, especially compared to the condescending attitude espoused by hilzoy (and OMG, this thread is huge! I’m still stuck in it!).

    Btw, GrowlyCub, I think I know what commentary you’re referring to, and I think that’s quite different and needs to be seen in the context of the discussion, and what it was posted in reply too.

  17. 17
    Miri says:

    I got only half way with reading the comments when my eyes went pop (i can’t find my glasses!). So in brief:

    Gary Farber: needs a smartbitch title and an invite to c’mon over and guest post about his opinion about what he thinks is going on in publishing these days re:Cassiegate/fake memoirs…

    Also to follow the logic of the romance=porn theory…

    Romance is porn for women
    Porn is porn for men
    Both use it to titillate/get off
    Therefore Grandma is reading Harlequins to get off? Your Mom too.
    Let that fill your head next time you claim Romance=Porn.

  18. 18
    Charlene says:

    I always love the complaint that happy ending = unrealistic. That is such prime balls. If anything, tragic, overdramatic endings common in general fiction are highly unrealistic.

    The cry of “unrealistic” is nothing but a learned reaction meant to put down a genre which is in fact more realistic than most others.

  19. 19
    GrowlyCub says:

    Ann Aguirre wrote:
    “Romance novels can be beautifully or poorly written, just like any other work of fiction. I don’t understand what’s so bad about books that offer a ray of light in a world that’s already dark enough.”

    You, me and everybody else who enjoys romance, but it’s so nice and self-fulfilling for non-romance readers to be able to look down on somebody and that’s what this is all about. 

    The literate types look down on anything that is not ‘literature’, and SF, fantasy and mystery readers/authors look down on romance readers/authors as in ‘at least we write/read better stuff than they do’, romance writers (I would have stopped there with the statement that now we are down to women writers so the looking down cannot go further, but alas, I was wrong) look down on erotica writers.  It seems to be part of human nature to want to feel superior to somebody else.

    Another part of the issue is that we still live in a patriarch society.  While women make up the reading majority, the people in charge of the industry and the critics are still mostly male.

    And as long as women of the Allen and Hilzoy ilk are allowed to spew forth their self-hatred in announcing to all and sundry how stupid women are who watch certain TV shows or read chick-lit/romance, we don’t even need the patronizing males to put us in our inferior ‘womanly’ place…

    Naturally, this is an generalization and Gary is a fabulous example of the exception to this rule. Go Gary. 🙂

    Besides romance and erotica, I read SF and am on one list where the ‘romance is crap/porn for women, SF is so much better’ discussion comes up on a regular basis and it’s not just men who feel that way either, but the majority…

    So, Gary rules! I’m all for inviting him over here!

  20. 20
    Jo Leigh says:

    “Incidentally, I’d say this is exactly right. “Chick lit” has been a well-known category for more than a decade now, and has little to do with genre romance novels. “Chick lit” novels certainly don’t work under the kind of constraints Harlequin (which pretty much denotes the lowest common denominator of genre romance publishing, rather than the average, let alone any kind of ceiling) writers do.”
    ___Gary Farber


    Jo Leigh
    Lowest Common Denominator Writer

  21. 21
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~romance writers (I would have stopped there with the statement that now we are down to women writers so the looking down cannot go further, but alas, I was wrong) look down on erotica writers. ~

    I don’t. I don’t think many of the writers who post here do, either.

    I don’t write it, and if someone said I did, I’d correct them. But that doesn’t equal looking down on.

  22. 22
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Gah. That incenses me, Jo.

    I actually think category writers have to be even sharper on point in the stories in order to tell them fully in the shorter length. That takes more skill, not less.

    Disagree? Try condensing your book to 55K without losing any character development, key plot points or intensity.

  23. 23
    dangrgirl says:

    FYI, Charlotte Allen is going to be online at a WaPo live chat today EST 2pm. Here’s the link. I’m told it’s a moderated discussion.

  24. 24
    bungluna says:

    As an aside, and on a lighter note, I worked alongside two French-trained chefs (one Cordon Bleu, the other an a apprentice of a very famous Parisian chef) and we all agreed that, for consistently great pomme frites, there’s nothing like McDonalds!

  25. 25
    lijakaca says:

    God that’s a fun discussion to read! I loved how no one has let the inevitable cries of “Who cares, the article was just a joke” and “C’mon, let’s not argue anymore about something so silly” stop them from continuing to debate. As long as the argument hasn’t descended to personal attacks or nonsensical flaming, why should they stop?
    And that article sounds awful, I’m not familiar with the WaPo but this sure gives me a bad first impression.

  26. 26
    rebyj says:

    Well, I read a portion of the comments. Someone said ” romance is the female equivalent of porn”
      Porn is for men to watch when they don’t have a woman around to take care of their needs ie: masterbation tool.

    Female masterbation doesn’t require watching or reading anything,they just require raging hormones and batteries. 🙂

  27. 27
    dianewb says:

    I’m loving all of this discussion.  I’m still wading through the other post, but I’m thrilled that we have so many articulate and eloquent women AND men defending and informing people about romance novels.

  28. 28
    R. says:

    I heart Gary Farber’s brain.

    And what’s with Hilzoy’s back-peddling and double-speak about ‘this is what I wrote, but this is what I *really* meant’?

  29. 29
    Nanny says:

    I always thought of romances as comparable to styles of poetry. Would you say that free verse is superior to a sonnet, for instance, simply because it was written with no rules? No. They’re just different, and there can be good and bad examples in each form (as high school emo poetry exemplifies).

    Or, for that matter, would you say, “When I said ‘sonnets,’ I meant bad sonnets. Shakespeare doesn’t count. He transcends sonnets.” Right. If, by transcends, you mean helped invent. You know, like Jane Austen helped invent the modern novel.

    I always had a great deal of respect for category romance novelists. To create originality and freshness with so many restrictions must be extremely difficult.

  30. 30
    Randi says:

    Hoo-boy, that was a doozy! Glad I didn’t get into that while I was at work.

    I just thought of something-my own filter that just came to me. I was going to say that once again, I am impressed with the high level of discussion. But, why am I? Why aren’t I just like, “yeah, of course someone would write a thesis on romance novels and why people read them, and that romance novels (or books, if you will) are just as good as any other type of novel (or book)”? I’m going to think it through a bit more, but I think, contrary to my own self-confidence about what I read, and the fabulous people here, I still have some inherent prejudices. Well, I’m going to go eat some crow and unfilter myself.

    But, possibly what I am continually impressed with, is that these discussions evolve and begin to cover aspects seperate from the initial issue. And that that makes for more interesting and thought provoking conversation. Maybe, that’s more what I’m continually impressed with-the minute deconstration of fair use vs plagerism; the minute deconstruction of genre vs non genre, etc…as I said, I’m going to go think myself silly wondering where my own filter came from, why I have it, and which trash can I can dump it in.

    PS. Nora-while I have never heard you denigrate erotica, I have noticed a trend to do so, most especially from the romance crowd. So, I think Growlycub has a point.

    Man-this site rulz.

  31. 31
    tree says:

    I am just now getting ‘round to reading this.  For the love of pete, will people stop equating Jane Austen with romance novels?  More to the point, yay Gary!

  32. 32
    firefly says:

    Actually, it doesn’t surprise me to find hilzoy at the center of the cyclone. This isn’t the first post I’ve read there that I found similarly superficial and utterly annoying. I thought it was just me, so I undid my bookmark and didn’t go back.

    Seriously, if she has to explain herself 30 times in the comments, she shouldn’t have posted in the first place.

    But watching all the flying dust from the backpedaling was kinda cool.

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