Writers Behaving Badly

Years ago, when I first started writing, I bought a copy of Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, a collection of scholarly essays about the appeal of the romance novel edited by bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz. You see, reading romances was bad enough. Wanting to write them was tantamount to spitting in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey and betraying all my hard work as an English major. Reading dreck like romances required that I turn over my Mensa card immediately and scurry back to the respectable fiction aisle.

But what exactly does “respectable” fiction look like? Having read my share of literary fiction–prizewinning literary fiction, at that—I can’t say that I’m consistently impressed. Considering how snide serious writers are about genre writers (read about the kerfuffle when the National Book Foundation folks decided to award its annual medal for distinguished contribution to American letters to Stephen King here), I find it vastly amusing when a genre writer gets a good jab in at the literati. Like King’s acceptance speech. Or even better, this excerpt from British romantic novelist Mary Wibberley’s book To Writers with Love. Not long after being asked by a woman at a literary society when she was planning to write a “real” book, Wibberley attended an Arts Council presentation in which several women novelists read excerpts of their work. During the presentation, she writes,

A fleeting—but scathing—reference to Mills & Boon and romance in general was made by one of them during the question session. I kept silent, oh foolish me, but afterwards went and read the blurbs on the covers of the books these authors had brought for sale. One was about an eighty-seven-year-old woman who decides to commit suicide and locks herself in a cupboard to do so. I wasn’t sure why. Another concerned a gorilla that is bred from a human ovum and goes to public school. So that’s literature. I had so often wondered. One day (when I have time) I am going to write a book about a one-legged Armenian transvestite who is forced to flee (well, hop, I suppose) to a Tibetan monastery after being seduced by his lesbian dentist. I’m quite confident I’ll get an Arts Council grant to write it. So, yes, lady from the literary society at which I spoke, I would like to write a real book. And that will be it. Or I might just build a pile of bricks.

But one doesn’t have to get snippy to get a point across. Bless author Maya Rodale for this gem of a response!
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