Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are you really what you read?

I cut, and I bleed.  You seem to find that so hard to believe.  Well, that’s just too, too bad.  You could never touch the love that we had.
--The Hoodoo Gurus, Bittersweet
So I told a coworker the other day that I love to read romance novels.  Immediately I felt the shift in our conversation; I could almost see the exact instant when he stopped taking me seriously and filed me under under the label of desperate housewife.  I was amazed he didn’t reach out, pat me on the head, and send me to go get him a coffee.  One lump, not two.  
Such is the life of the much maligned romance addict.  Even my husband gives me grief, equating romantic fiction to the female equivalent of Penthouse forum.
He’s wrong, of course.  Actually, he’s wrong about a lot more than the dual meanings of heaving bosoms, but that’s a different blog for when I’m feeling in touch with my inner marriage counselor.
But it makes me wonder, why is romantic fiction often considered, for lack of a better word, fluff?  Should I feel compelled to hide that steamy Highlander cover to prevent people from assuming I’m shallow or just partial to plaid?   
The recent Wall Street Journal article about another genre I love--YA--and how it is apparently rotting the hearts and minds of people all over this fine world made me consider this question:
Do we really become what we read?
I have spent a good portion of my life reading medically oriented texts and journals.  They’re filled with dull and often horrible descriptions of diseases you don’t want, and written by physicians who many times lose sight that they are even talking about a person at all.  Their characters become just an interesting case; a bizarre little blip in the existence of the human animal to marvel about.
So, if I believe the WSJ piece, I could claim that academia has the potential to steal a piece of my soul.  It’s certainly made me callous and cynical at times.  Killed my compassion at others.  Should we call for a moratorium on the New England Journal?  Light the bonfires for Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine?  
To put this in another perspective, go pick up a newspaper.  There’s no end to the atrocities that happen, and they’re all hard fact.  Human reality is often horrible and bleak. We are a frail creature, susceptible to physical and mental illness, accidents, addictions.  And to make matters worse, our own species can cannibalize itself, doing unspeakable things to harm and exploit each other.  
Yet fiction, romantic or otherwise, becomes the bastard of the blame game, the vehicle that is warping our society into mindless pieces of id.

Yeah, I don’t think so.
To me, fiction offers solace from the very real problems around us.  Here the author can provide the inner monologue to explain what motivates a character.  In fiction world, the reader can understand another human in a way that seldom is presented in our “real” relationships.  For once, we get to see the entire story.  To make our own decision to sympathize, or condemn.
I am in awe of romantic fiction for the simple reason that it lets me believe for every heroine, there is a hero.  That even the misfit has a soul mate, and people can excel beyond what they thought possible.  That salvation can exist in a world that is often overrun with villains.  
When well done, romance can make your heart break, and your toes curl.  And even when it’s cliched and cringe worthy, it’s an escape into a world where we can see what is possible with hope and love.  It provides the chance to see the emotional connection that too often is ignored in the barrage of facts around us.
In short, fiction doesn’t create reality, it helps us to deal with it.
So if I am what I read, let me be a romance novel.  I want to be full of the highs and lows of human emotion.  To identify with someone else without having to risk anything but the possibility that I could be taught to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the human animal.
I want to be healed with a soft touch, a smoldering look, a searing kiss.
I want my HEA.
If you could be any fiction genre, what would it be and why?


  1. If we are what we read, I'd be Fantasy. Sprawling castles, magic spells, mystical creatures--growing up I wanted to be a princess and live in a castle, and so I married a man who treats me like one. When I head down to the lower level in the house, I don't go to the basement, I'm heading to the 'dungeon'.

  2. I can't pick a particular genre, but I just love underdog stories. Maybe because I have an underdog complex. Great post!

  3. I enjoy reading becuase it takes me out of reality. It's like a vacation.

    Hey, Lydia, I like underdog stories too. I think I identify with underdogs too much, LOL!

    Nice post! I'm glad I stopped by.

  4. Have you heard of Six Sentence Sunday?


    It's mostly Romance writers who post 6 sentences of their WIP every Sunday.

    Lots of fun :)

    If you love romance stories, you might like to check it out.

  5. I agree with K. Turley. I think I am fantasy, because I read it a lot (duh), and because I spend only part of my time in the "real" world. The rest of the time I reside in kingdoms and castles that I've created. =)

  6. >>...If you could be any fiction genre, what would it be and why?

    Anything other than Romance.
    Why? Because it's the female equivalent of Penthouse Forum and not to be taken seriously.

    (How'd I do? D'I pass this test?)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'


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