Elmore Leonard said: I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

Monday, 10 March 2008

BOOK LEARNIN'

Woot! I just got Pamela Regis's A Natural History of the Romance Novel in the post today.

I've been meaning to read this forever (well, since the Bindel Fiasco) and the first 16 pages have been very instructive.

The book is a refutation of the claim that "the form of the romance novel genre - its ending in marriage - extinguishes the heroine and binds the reader." (11)

Regis argues that it's not in the HEA (or 'the betrothal') that the true meaning of a romance novel is found, but the 'barrier' and the 'point of ritual death.' The freedom our heroine achieves in overcoming these elements is what we the readers relate to. It is the heroine's freedom to choose the hero that we celebrate at the end of a novel.

I think.

That's me at page sixteen. I remain to be convinced, sitting somewhere in the middle of Bindel and Regis in this great never-to-end debate. Behold:

7 comments:

RfP said...

Ah, interesting. The Regis has been on my "to read" pile for a long time--so long that the whole pile went into storage a few months ago. Oops.

BTW, it's Bindel.

Laura Vivanco said...

I'm in the middle too, because almost all generalisations are over-simplifications. [Phew! Did I manage to get past the problem of critiquing generalisations while generalising?]. It seems to me that there are so many romances that it would be impossible to prove that all of them do the same thing. I've come across some romances in which the heroine did seem to me to be being extinguished, but I've also read many in which she ends up freed. And quite a lot in which she has to make the usual compromises that we almost all have to make. How many of us are truly free? [Sorry, rather big philosophical question there, rather early in the morning.]

One thing about Pam's book which has been commented on is that it's worded very much as one man, one woman, ending in marriage/betrothal. But from what I can tell, having read the discussions on the Romance Scholar list, she wouldn't exclude m/m romance from the genre.

Tumperkin said...

way to go with the visual aids. when you've finished reading this, I'll be expecting spectacular graphs.

Meriam said...

Laura,

It seems to me that there are so many romances that it would be impossible to prove that all of them do the same thing

Precisely. So, as lovely as it would be to make sweeping declarations, I guess we're left to qualify everything and to be critical and uncertain and ambiguous....

I don't think Regis answers Bindel's wider claim that romance novels reflect/ indirectly enforce patriarchal norms:

The heroine's freedom in the form of her life, her liberty or her property may be in doubt not only in the original society that promotes the barrier, but also in the new society at the end of the work. Nevertheless, the heroine’s freedom however provisional, is a victory. (p16)

But I've only read 2 chapters, so maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

Thanks Tumperkin. Sometimes I think my striking (ahem) visual aids take longer to create than reading the books I review, certainly longer than writing my posts... a true labour of love. They are really addictive.

And that's why I didn't change 'Bindle' when I noticed the error: it takes too long to correct!

Laura Vivanco said...

So, as lovely as it would be to make sweeping declarations, I guess we're left to qualify everything and to be critical and uncertain and ambiguous....

Looking on the positive side, being all ambiguous etc does mean that we're emphasising the diversity of the genre, which is good because it counters the perception that there's a single "formula" used to "churn out" romances.

Carolyn Jean said...

I'm sort of new to the whole genre, and I just want to let you know, I found your little graph very helpful. And what an interesting argument. I can see both sides, and the point about diversity is well taken, too. And can both those sides be true at the same time? Oh, I don't know!!

Meriam said...

I'm in the same muddle. Once I've finished the Regis, I'll have to see how I feel, if she's successfully swayed me.

btw, I love your avatar.