Reading Romance Makes You Stupid!

As usual, I’m late to the party here, but whatever.

Last week, The New Republic published a piece by William Giraldi that caused quite a ruckus. In it, Giraldi bemoans the continued popularity of the 50 Shades trilogy and romance novels in general (you can read the Smart Bitches response here). Normally, when something of this ilk is published, I tend to ignore it, because, hey, people belittling  romance novels, their authors, and their readers, are plentiful and I see no reason to waste my breath trying to convince someone who has already made up their mind that romance novels aren’t that bad.

When I finished reading Giraldi’s article, I had two thoughts:

1) The man will not be getting laid any time in the near future.

2) The reason for number one is because of the extremely insulting nature of his article.

It’s one thing to  turn your nose up at romance novels. It’s another thing entirely to basically come out and say the people who write them, and read them, suffer from a low IQ.

The thing is, I’d read more literary fiction if I could find a way to shovel through the crap to find the gems at the bottom of the pile. When I pick up a romance novel, or an urban fantasy novel, or, hell, a mystery or thriller, I have one expectation: to be entertained to the point I look up a few hours later, book done, and I’m amazed the time flew by so quickly. And for the most part, this happens on a regular basis.

It used to be when I picked up a literary novel, I expected the same thing. I expected to be immersed in the beauty of the English language, to dive so deep into these characters that they stuck with me long after the book was over.

If you’ve been reading the posts here on Byrne After Reading for the last year, you’d know that those books have been few and far between lately.

2012 was a great year for literary fiction. Perla, Broken Harbor, The Barbarian Nurseries… all books I’d read again. But 2013 failed me. For every Enon it brought me, I paged through five The Silent Wife. Literary novelists, it seems, are getting more and more lost in their own words and failing to provide me with what I’ve always demanded: to be entertained.

So many literary novels of late have made me snort, because I feel like the author is only trying to impress upon me how smart he is. I could give two fucks (or no fucks, really) whether you have an expensive piece of paper proudly declaring you a graduate of some MFA program. I don’t need to see every multi-syllable word you know gracing the page. If your focus is on the language and not your plot (because even literary fiction requires a plot), you will lose me.

I want the haunting images. I want the vehemence, the giddy joy, the aching loss those novels bring. I want the twists and rabbit holes and shocks so powerful they reverberate for days. I’ve missed them this past year, and I continue to miss them. It’s enough to make me want to give up on literary fiction, to shun it the way others shun genre fiction.

In the meantime, Mr. Giraldi, I’ll continue to lower my IQ with my romance novels. I’m sure one day soon you’ll find me babbling incoherently in the corner. Because isn’t that what you’re implying? That I’ll become a simpleton if I continue to choose genre fiction over the hyperbolic bullshit so many novelists insist on producing today?

Well then. Bring it on.

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