Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rom Criticism

In a complementary article about the Romance Writers of Australia Conference this week, The Age wrote about the publishing phenomenon that is the romance industry and what the usual detractors are saying about romance novels. This is despite the fact that the romance industry is keeping the rest of those highbrow authors and readers afloat "by selling in the hundreds of millions every year." In fact, the reason publishing firms didn't go under in the recent past is because of their romance imprints.

"If we are to believe the critics, it's not just blokes who should be concerned at the annual convention of romance writers and their readers, starting in the city on Thursday. In some cases, you will be shocked to hear, those passionate paperbacks that sell by the many millions are as bad for some women as porn is for men."

"Susan Quilliam, a British psychologist and writer, sparked an international storm in June when she used her column in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care to cast a critical eye over some of the messages being sent to women by these books. Quilliam started with this question: 'What relevance can romantic fiction have to the clients who turn up at our family planning clinics, arrive in our surgeries, or present their problems in our therapy rooms?' Her conclusions made headlines: 'Clearly,' she wrote, 'these messages run totally counter to those we try to promote. In one recent survey, only 11.5 per cent of romantic novels studied mentioned condom use.'"

Oh, yes, women are so feeble and beef-witted that they cannot separate reality from fantasy. And oh, yes, in medieval times, they really did have reliable prophylactics readily available.

Quilliam, like other detractors, usually have read none of the books they purport to criticize. Oh, yes, they "know" those bodice-rippers without having cracked open a single one.

"'The magic of reading is the ability of the author to transport you somewhere else, and allow you to create the story and the characters in your mind,' says Michelle Laforest, managing director for the Australian arm of Harlequin Enterprises. In other words, no work of fiction—be it a romance novel or a Jonathan Franzen work of art—should read like an advice pamphlet from the Department of Health."