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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Men and romance (novels, that is)

Literary agent Evan Fogelman addresses the issue of men and romance novels in a column at Romancing the Blog entitled Sex and Stones. He admits he's often asked why he is drawn to romance novels, and he writes candidly that he is not, at least not completely. He says just as he does not like all wine, he is not drawn to all romance fiction. He likes the "good stuff."

And there is plenty of good stuff to be had. Men who have a natural aversion to anything written by a woman (see my previous entries on gender bias in reading) will not ever be tempted by a book labelled as a "romance." However, those guys who like suspense, mystery and science-fiction need not think that they will not encounter those subgenres under romance. And there are all types of flavors: hardboiled, lyrical, literary, humorous and in some cases, horrific. The only difference between a romance book with these elements and those books expressly marketed under these other genres is that you will encounter a love story interwoven into the plot. Yes, it may be the central focus of the story, but that doesn't mean the other plot elements are sacrificed in the name of romance.

Take for instance Suzanne Brockmann's Navy Seal series. There are tight, suspenseful situations with enough military jargon (well-researched) to put a stop to anyone protesting "purple prose." Not that there isn't purple prose around; it's just not the only offering.

Fogelmann writes that the monolithic mentality in which romance novels are judged is "an odd form of sexism." He finds it interesting that romance is often criticized (by men) as having stereotypical characterization, then asks these men why male-crafted heroes are considered "archetypes" and female-crafted heroes are considered "stereotypes." Good question.

Fogelmann's advice to us readers: " not espouse (pun intended) the same sexism you find offensive by asking why a man would be interested in romance novels..." I agree. In the end, a good story should appeal to both genders, even if it is a "romance novel." Unfortunately, that may not be the market reality for quite some time.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 9/15/2005 07:22:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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