About that Time Magazine Article –
Romance Readers Respond
Well, well, well…
I’m quoting from the TIME article:
]]> Support our sponsors “The spirited heroine must bring the male of her choice to heel–‘civilize’ or ‘tame’ him…”
Could this be the heart of the matter? God forbid, we women should “civilize” men. This might bother some insecure men, but thank goodness most men are secure in their masculinity. Right?
When referring to a quote by Penelope Williamson, the article mentions “sour grapes”. Again, I think this is very telling, but not the way the author intended. We women sure have a lot of nerve controlling so much of the writing, reading and sale of books, don’t we? Shame on us. Sour grapes indeed.
As far as the statement “Even dedicated fans report feeling embarrassed buying them (romance novels)” goes, all I can say is, “So what?” If some are embarrassed, there are many more of us who aren’t. On the (rare, I’m proud to say) occasion when a man smirks when he sees my book in the checkout line, I don’t worry about it–I just assume he’s the one who’s been leaving behind the Penthouse magazines hidden between the covers of “Gourmet” magazine.
Thank you for responding so quickly to the Time Magazine article. I personally feel that everyone who posts at your boards and are avid readers of romance should also take the time to respond.
Unfortunately, it seems to me, in the last decade that women have lost their eagerness to defend the rights those before us have fought so hard to gain. Yes, we DO need to repond to Phil Gray because when articles like this go unchallenged, then our male dominated society remains firmly in control. Let me explain why I feel this way.
Most men embrace the physical challenges seen in sports, and find themselves drawn to local sporting events and sports telecasts seen on TV in our living rooms 365 days a year. And I don’t feel there is anything wrong with that. It’s called entertainment. They are being entertained by doing something they enjoy, watching or participating in sports.
Most women embrace the emotional aspects of life. Those that have discovered romance novels have found that they can experience a myriad of emotions when reading romance novels. And again, I don’t feel there is anything wrong with that. It’s called entertainment. They are being entertained by doing something they enjoy, such as reading romance novels.
Now I am not attempting to lump all women or men into these categories, but psychological studies show most men are uncomfortable experiencing strong emotions. Whether that be inherant or not is not the issue, but it does explain alot about why men avoid reading books where they would be forced into feeling something, such as those feelings that are bound to surface while reading romance novels. It’s much easier to avoid the uncomfortable, and not be forced to grow.
But what stumps these same men is why romance novels are such a “phenomenon” in the literary world. We (many women) figured out their (the majority of men) love of sports some time ago and many of us have embraced it ourselves. We opened ourselves to experience other aspects of life and are better persons for it.
Isn’t it unfortunate that many men here are missing the point? That there is great enjoyment to be gleaned from reading a novel in which no emotion is left untouched. (I believe Romantic Times Magazine used this in talking about Judith McNaught’s writing) And how unfortunate also that they are missing the chance to enrich their lives also, by attempting to get in touch with their own emotions.
I embrace the female gender for having the guts to experience many different aspects of life in their quest to become all that they can be. But if we allow a male dominated society to make us out to be less viable persons because our interest may vary from theirs than we are simply pandering to their dominance. And I for one won’t have it. Especially by a journalist who apparently isn’t willing to truly research such strong statistics found in literature. And perhaps it scares them just a little that we have such a dominant voice in what is being published. They simply don’t know how to control that, so they attempt to belittle it and in the same breath, belittle the women who enjoy it. And thereby, they have again put us “little ladies” in our place.
I think we have come entirely too far to allow some uninformed journalist to perpetuate such an ancient way of thinking. We all truly need to stand up for what we believe in…the right to express ourselves as individuals in a free society. And yes studies may show we are different in how we “let” ourselves experience the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and change by challenging ourselves to broaden our life experiences. I think we would all be happier for it.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I found this at Margaret Moore’s website. It quotes Canadian literary lion Robertson Davies, speaking of Harlequin romance novels:
“I repeat that I do not see anything new or anything reprehensible with the taste which leans towards Harlequin books. In an earlier day the story teller, or shanachie, at the fireside satisfied the taste for narrative. In our day, when everybody can read, the Harlequin does the same thing and it is dangerous to condemn stories as junk which satisfy the deep hunger of millions of people. These books are not literary art, but a great deal of what is acclaimed as literary art in our time offers no comfort or fulfillment to anybody.”
I recently found an academic who eloquently defends romances. Dale Spender’s book Mothers of the Novel was published in 1984, but she is very assertive in her defense of women’s literature and romances.
Here is how she counters the opinion that romances must be bad because they are mass-produced and about love and relationships:
“The reputation of William Shakespeare has not suffered because he had mass appeal. (…) And the male novelists have not been outlawed because of their mass appeal, or on the grounds that because they were popular, they wrote romance”.
Male writers supposedly write about the human predicament, while women are accused of producing only romantic fiction. But women are also part of the human race, so writing about love and relationships is also part of human concerns!
Men seem to think they have a monopoly on human experience. However, like in the newspaper article, the disparagement of romances is not based on a detailed study:
“The deprecation of women’s writing is not based on a close study of the writing; rather the term romance is used to indicate that such writing does not warrant close study. Once classified as romance, women’s writing can be disqualified from analysis. Which put very simply means that you do not have to read them to know they are awful.
You just call them romance and then all persons of proper taste and judgement will know such novels are not worth bothering about”. . .
“The issue must be that this is nothing other than name calling. That the literary establishment has outlawed women writers by giving them and their writing a bad name and by establishing the reality that there is no need to read women’s writing, for it can be taken for granted that it is no good.”
One can assume that because romances are written for women and by women, their depreciation is not based on quality, but on sex.
I copied this Time article at the library to read before this thread was even put up.
Actually, the thing seems to be nothing more than a filler for the magazine. I couldn’t quite figure out WHY it was written in the first place, there are no great revelations there, and despite the focus on Nora Roberts, the plagarism thing with Janet Dailey wasn’t brought up. (I don’t think). Anyway, besides being a knock job on Nora it doesn’t mean a darned thing. Speaking of male points of view, I don’t remember any articles that waxed poetic about Tom Clancy’s dream fulfillment when Clancy ditched his wife of 30+ years for a trophy wife. Why didn’t they have some smarmy article about how Clancy finally achieved that long-sought goal of masculinity—a billion bucks in the bank and a new young wife? I used to be a sometime reader of Time, but have totally quit in the past few years because the articles in them seem to be written by 20-somethings with an ironic attitude, something I am not looking for when I want to find out the news……what a waste, it used to be a good dependable newsmag, now its little better than People because of the editorial/personal opinions scattered through all the articles.
I just read the magazine article and your response. While, frankly, I have read worse, I sure have to agree with you that it seems as if this fellow has done very little background reading before writing the article (I think if he had simply read The Outsider and The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson, a writer he sourced, he might have had a different opinion of romances.) But the remark that actually annoyed me most in the article was:
“Free of moral ambiguity? So much, then, for Homer, Shakespeare and Austen.”
As something of a scholar of literature in my misspent past, I firmly believe that the moral ambiguity in these writers has been HIGHLY exaggerated by 20th-century readers and critics.
I loved your article; a friend of mine on a Nora Roberts message board posted the link to it…this is what i wrote to them because i just could not keep my mouth shut on the subject…
“To the editor of Paul Gray’s article titled “Passion on the Pages” in the March 20, 2000 print edition-
Let me start by saying that I am a young, professional woman with a four-year college degree. I lead a full and fulfilling life, which includes romance novels and the friends I’ve made through our common love of the genre. A friend of mine warned me to read the above titled article before I considered buying the magazine. After following her advice, I chose not to buy the magazine. I have to commend the author on his ability to craft an article that, on the surface, is seemingly a paean to the romance industry, when it is in fact, a slam against the industry and a particular author, Nora Roberts, along with her fans. I wonder if Mr. Gray intended to grossly offend myself and a group of friends when he wrote “…