Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Confession Time

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a confession to make.

I love Harlequin romances.

And I am not ashamed to admit it.

*I say this, of course, with the addendum that I am not a fan of Harlequin's business practices; authors are not compensated nearly as well as they should be, particularly for electronic copies of their works, and I hope that's something that Harlequin works to change in the future.

I've read nine Harlequins on my Kindle in the last week.  I've got a few more that I'm dying to get into, but which I'm making myself wait on, because the beach is in my very near future, and my idea of a perfect vacation is sun, sand, surf, and a romance novel. 

And I've been pondering the idea why.  This is coming from someone who spends a great deal of her time buried in dry academic texts (right now, I have a volume of Tennyson, William Paley's Natural Theology, Robert Chambers' Vestiges of the Natural Creation and Arthur Lovejoy's The Great Chain of Being on the desk next to me).    Harlequins often feature implausible plots with characters, who, in the real world, would be candidates for institutionaliztion.

And I love every minute of it.

It's easy. It's fun. The good guys always win. The girl always gets Mr. Right. For 50,000 words, everything goes perfectly. 

And yet some people make fun of other people who read these.  Book snobs will look down on them and say that there's no value in this kind of cultural commodity.

Well, screw it. You know what? If I can escape into a world where everything goes right for a couple of hours, why not?  Isn't that something of value right there?  It makes me happy.  One can get into the philosophical utilitarian arguments, but popular culture studies tell us that this kind of cultural consumption means we're looking for something as a society.  So what is it that these romance novels, whether Harlequin or longer works, give us that makes them stay in the best-selling lists?

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