Positively Medieval

I have a confession to make. I read romance novels, the atrociously cheddar kind that have very formulaic characters and plots you could set your watch to. Of course I have standards...

I refuse--or am possibly too embarrassed--to purchase paperbacks with scantily clad people on the cover and/or a title that implies a sex act or body part. I prefer trash that embraces some semblance of "historical fiction." I like to think there's a possibility of learning something about 17th Century France while Xavier, cloaked only in moonlight, pulls the timid Celeste into his arms.

Yet, lately, I have found even these, seemingly modest hopes foiled on my semi-surreptitious trips to Borders' romance section. I tend to go there in late afternoons, and hurrying to the back, taking the long way through the social sciences and gender studies sections, pausing to pick up and put down a few sci fi books just to make myself look curious. And as I turn the corner, I employ my highly honed technique of scanning four shelves worth of books at once--first on the right, then on the left, paying close attention to titles and decorations on the book's spine.

I amuse myself at the irony of the situation. While a heroine in one of my books may be afraid of being discovered as a scholar in say regency England, I am afraid of being denounced too plebeian.

But, alas, I've noticed that I've reached the "M"s before finding even one book I'd consider reading. You see, my favorite genre, historical Scottish romance is dying out. The economy of numbers has whipped out its sword and cut down my Highland Honor in favor of "Undead and Unwed".

Perhaps this happens in the Arts more than I'm aware. Where once there was a plethora of reality tv shows offering multiple opportunities to cackle wit glee at a character's downfall, today there remains only a handful of settings in which to do so--obnoxious people live/sleep together, obnoxious people work/sleep together, and obnoxious people survive/sleep together on a deserted island.

At the height of the romance novel's golden age there was tremendous diversity--cowboy romance, chick lit, Native American romance, urban romance, regency romance, mystery/thriller romance, Civil War romance, pirate romance, viking romance, Arabian locale-themed romance, vampire romance, Danielle Steel books, Nora Roberts books, medieval romance--now, risen from the ashes is vampire romance, chicklit, and nora roberts.

Perhaps I should simply wait it out. There plenty of pretentious novels and compendiums that serve far greater social purposes than my two-dimensional, costumed fantasies.

While having coffee with frenemies, I could start waxing euphorically about Joe PhD's "fabulous dissertation on post-Czech modernism's influences on cubism." Before even half of their latte is finished, I'll have thoroughly bombarded them with my practiced snippets of intellectual oneupmanship.

Within weeks I'll have built a reputation for being a very deep, thinking-type person who knows what's going on in the world. This has its advantages, if only to make one feel better at cocktail parties about not weighing 30 pounds less nor making $30K more.

But on lazy Sunday mornings when I want to lie cocooned in my comforter and ratty PJs on the couch, with Liontamer immersed in the Internet, I want something easy on the mind.

Liontamer once said that romance novels are porn for women, because of their contextual sex. But I beg to differ. I'm not into erotica and aside from the casual, analytical interest in how many pages and rescues into the book the feisty virgin loses her, ahem, virginity, I could honestly skip it all. After all, there are only so many euphemisms one can use in the most compromising situations and they all become fairly ridiculous with time. "She used 'shaft of his manhood'? OMG, that was so 1999!"

Perhaps this is a clue to the female psyche--the majority of us (at least the majority of those who buy romance novels) may be more into the plot than the climax, so to speak. That isn't to say that the modern 8 buck chuck romance novels represent, in my mind, an ascension in sexual equality for females. Sure the arousal is there if we want it--no matter how ridiculous the metaphors are-- and I'm sure some women would rather use a book than anything that requires batteries. But most readers will tell you that their primary reason for reading these books is the , emotional satisfaction derived from a happy ending. --> I don't know what you're reading, but that's what I read. ;P

I'm sure there are a few extreme feminists out there who vehemently oppose romance novels, saying they degrade our gender. --That more often than not, romance novels perpetuate princess mythologies and male-dominated sexual encounters that result in a legions of women who do not take control of their own independence and equality within and without the bedroom. As for me, the feminists say, I need to ascend to a new dialectic, that will result in my full empowerment in the Goddess's image.

Now, I believe fervently in female power--whatever my secret indulgences may be. That's why Liontamer is making me dinner right now while I blog and tell him about my day at the office.

1 comment:

Olga said...

ok, the guilt trip worked, and I read the entire post. Even though it's like 10 times longer than mine and has no pictures.

I also don't read romance novels, but remember that when I moved to the USA from Russia, we were given a bunch of paperbacks w/Fabio-look-alikes...I bet they are still in my parents' garage.