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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Diana Gabaldon - romance writer?

She doesn't think so and would rather not be referred to as such. And if you do refer to her works as romance, "she'll counter that her books are historical mysteries tinged with science-fiction, and that the love scenes are secondary." Slate columnist Brendan Koerner approaches the write-up on Gabaldon with a scratching of the head. How is it that a book that contains "heaving bosoms" and "heavy breathing" can have an obviously intellectual and literary bent and contain words as complex as "dissentient"?

For those unfamiliar with Gabaldon or her works, the former Arizona State University research professor, who at one time wrote Fortran programs, penned her first novel Outlander in the late 80s and placed installments on a web forum. Encouraged by the positive responses, Gabaldon submitted the manuscript to an agent and the book was published by Delacourt in 1991. A tale of a 1940's English nurse transported back in time where she meets and falls in love with an 18th-century Scotsman immediately captured an audience - an audience of romance readers who were so taken with the torrid love-hate relationship between the hero/heroine, they stuck around for subsequent books in the series. That the hero, Jamie Fraser, is in his 50s has not deterred the fans, mostly in their 40s and 50s, from making him one of the more desired heroes in romance literature.

Gabaldon should forgive the confusion of those who think her works are romance; after all, she received a "Best Romance of the Year" award in 1991 from the Romance Writers of America. Gabaldon says that the honor was undeserved.

While Koerner tacitly sneers at the market, he makes exception for Gabaldon's works, which he notes is well researched enough to be offered "at British souvenir shops as accurate depictions of 18th century Highlander life."

Gabaldon's reluctance to be branded a romance writer may have been a saavy market move; her books are placed among the general fiction instead of the romance aisles. Otherwise, the "series might have gotten lost amidst thousands of tomes with bare-chested Adonises on the cover. (Romance covers are a sore issue among romance writers, who have little to no input on what covers will grace their books.) Ms. Gabaldon's latest book in the series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, features a snowflake on a silver backdrop.

Koerner notes that the targeted audience wouldn't blanch at passages refering to "the warm, musky weight" of the hero's testicles; obviously Koerner would. Which leaves me with the question whether men will ever accept romance literature, even if it is well-written, diligently researched, with compelling elements outside of the torrid clenches.

If the male reading public is like Koerner, the answer is obviously a definitive no.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/23/2005 01:43:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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