I like my literature a little on the trashy side

Without a heart, I can never really know what it would be like to love someone, or every really understand a trashy novel.
~ Tin Man, some weird anime version of The Wizard of Oz

I have always surrounded myself with books. Man, I love those things. I don't ever remember a time when I didn't read. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was read the novel synopses in the back of the volumes of the supermarket encyclopedias my parents "bought" with trading stamps. I knew more about Tobacco Road than any seven-year-old should have.

Now, that's not to say that I didn't read standard kid stuff -- Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler -- all took up space on my bookshelves. Then there were magazines -- I learned about life from the "Can This Marriage Be Saved" column in The Belle's Ladies Home Journal magazines. Cultivated my love of cooking from Bon Appetit. Read classic sports journalism in Sports Illustrated. I have a good friend from high school whose indelible memory of me from those days is me reading Gone with the Wind. Still have the copy I read then, held together with ancient masking tape.

But all that changed the summer I was 12. I discovered Harlequin romances. Each volume dirt cheap at the grocery store. I wasn't much for the historical versions -- I was more the contemporary romance kinda girl. Even tried my hand at writing one -- my hero's name was Van Doren. Don't remember what the beautiful, spunky heroine's name was, but she was an Olympic swimmer slumming as a life guard at a resort in Florida.

Go ahead and gag. I know I am.

Harlequin romances. My gateway drug. To my still-current dirty little secret.

True Confession I: I love trashy novels. More than anything.

First it was Judith Krantz with Scruples. Then more of her genre. Jacqueline Susann. Valley of the Dolls. Sidney Sheldon. My goddess Jackie Collins. A truly deliciously horrible set of books about a group of deliciously repulsive women called The Crazy Ladies, written by a woman called Joyce Elbert. In that quinella, the "hero" was a pervy physician named Fingerhood. Yes, really.

True Confession II: At this moment in time, I pretty much read only trashy novels. Or silly little murder mysteries.

Nothing of literary value. Nada. It's all fluffier than the cotton candy kiosk at the circus.

Yes, I have a degree in English literature. Yes, I've read some of the world's greatest novels. I love to talk about those books still to this day. And there was a time when I read worthwhile things for pleasure. But somehow I've slid into the lazy crazy habit of not engaging with books that make me think past "wow, that's an interesting sexual scenario" or "my goodness, that woman is a slut."

My literary side right now is the equivalent of a Kardashian.

I am vapid. And I am unashamed.

When you are to the point when you order your beach trash from Amazon.uk, you just need to own it. By the way, just because a book text contains words like colour, glamour and dodgy, doesn't mean it's not a smutty book. It's just posh trash.

Not sure how I ended up here mired in literary muck. Maybe it's been collateral damage from my crazy, stressful life. Or perhaps I still have a little burnout from my crazy college schedule when I would have to carefully read at least two novels a week while holding down a full-time job -- and then have to be versed enough in them to participate in class discussions. Hammering out One Hundred Years of Solitude in a week isn't for the faint of heart. (But oh, what a beautiful book.) Or perhaps it's more that I came to need that discussion and interaction with others when it comes to a book of significane, now that I think about it. I'm a girl in need of a book club. Maybe.

PS: I got my English degree with a GPA of 4.0, thankyewverymuch. And my nine hours of grad school credit -- 4.0. Just for the record. *Cheshire Cat grin*

The new year always heralds a clean slate in terms of personal goals and objectives, hopes and dreams. A full calendar with all its pages on one side of the spiral signifies options and opportunity. Think I might add reading books that might engage something than my endorphins to the list. Add a little protein to the junk food literary diet I've been on. It'll be good for my mind to have something to process so that the mush my brain's become isn't so, well, mushy.

But for every Jeffery Eugenides book I add to the top of my nightstand, for every Chuck Klosterman essay I mentally process, I'll guarantee that there'll be a Jackie Collins or Brit Posh Trash book to match it.

I am woman. I like smut.

The truth is, everyone likes to look down on someone. If your favorites are all avant-garde writers who throw in Sanskrit and German, you can look down on everyone. If your favorites are all Oprah Book Club books, you can at least look down on mystery readers. Mystery readers have sci-fi readers. Sci-fi can look down on fantasy. And yes, fantasy readers have their own snobbishness. I’ll bet this, though: in a hundred years, people will be writing a lot more dissertations on Harry Potter than on John Updike. Look, Charles Dickens wrote popular fiction. Shakespeare wrote popular fiction—until he wrote his sonnets, desperate to show the literati of his day that he was real artist. Edgar Allan Poe tied himself in knots because no one realized he was a genius. The core of the problem is how we want to define “literature”. The Latin root simply means “letters”. Those letters are either delivered—they connect with an audience—or they don’t. For some, that audience is a few thousand college professors and some critics. For others, its twenty million women desperate for romance in their lives. Those connections happen because the books successfully communicate something real about the human experience. Sure, there are trashy books that do really well, but that’s because there are trashy facets of humanity...

~ Brent Weeks

1 comment:

karin said...

Your romance novels are my thrillers. I can't get enough of them. Should I be reading something deeper with a little more meaning? Absolutely. Do I care? No. I love reading books that get my heart thumping and ensure that I will be afraid to sleep by myself at night.

Maybe we should set up our own little long distance book club to add that bit of protein to our fluffy diet!