You know, almost 30 years in the business & I still haven't gotten my elevator statement down on Romance—you know the one minute spiel that says it, sells it, and shuts all argument down.
Because my initial Mad Magazine 'Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions' attitude just isn't the right approach. Responding negatively to negativity (not to get too California on you) just begets more negativity. And it can go from bad to worse—though not without moments of satisfaction, I must note.
The right way is to have a positive conversation—to say not only do I like what I do, but I think it's important. Scratch that. It IS important. Let me compellingly demonstrate, you small-minded snot...oops!
I am behind on my TBR pile, so I didn't catch this on the first round, and connected when I was checking out Galleycat in Media Bistro & saw Ron Hogan's June 8 post on Jane Green and her spirited commentary on Erica Jong's letter, apparently originally published in Publishers Weekly and then posted on the Huffington Post.
I thought FINALLY. Someone—not a romance writer (sorry, endorsements need to come from certified literary types—for some reason Ms Jong fills the bill—or from guys, in order to have any weight or be taken seriously) coming out and saying in public that love is not only OK, it's pretty darn important.
Ms Jong notes that "deep down, the same old prejudice prevails. War matters: love does not. Women are destined to be undervalued as long as we write about love." (She accurately notes the same is not true for guys. 'When they write about family and relationships, critics marvel at their capacity for empathy'!)
What is...challenging and perhaps unresolvable is the double edge of the weapons and protective armour women use. And the implications the choice of those 'weapons' have.
For we can be complicit in diminishing ourselves, our choices, our preferences for a thousand reasons. To protect ourselves; to protect, comfort, reassure others that we do not pose a threat; to give us the opportunity to pick our battles; to fool others; to avoid having to prove ourselves, be ridiculed, justify our choices to insensitive boors; to avoid being hurt.
Playing dumb is an effective strategy for many. Truly, there are some situations where you just can't afford to play smart; it's bad for your health. So the dismissive words, 'it's just a trashy book, a beach read, nothing serious, light reading: Fluff!'...are ascribed to stories that touch us. Books we enjoy. . . .
We often deny and diminish ourselves to men, and also to the thought-police women, who sometimes, in the desire to 'win the battle,' push women to deny parts of who we are as women, as—along with the patriarchy—they see things feminine as weak, agree that using "feminine whiles" is demeaning and cheating. (The concept of "masculine whiles" does not, of course exist. That's just the normal way of doing business). There are a thousand reasons.
For example, there was a moment on the first Apprentice TV show where the girls were decimating the boys—mostly by exploiting S-E-X and their appealing assets. After about a 4-0 score, Trump told the girls they were too smart to just keep using their attributes to win. It was an interesting moment. Do you think a boy would have set aside a sure-fire winning strategy just because it was too easy and worked every time? Hmmmm.
There's not much sport in dynamiting fish, but if you need to feed your family, have no fly fishing skills & you're not a member of the exclusive Rod 'n' Gun Club and you've got a nice stick of dynamite, I for one am not going to waggle my finger at your using assets given as effectively as possible.
"War matters, love does not." That translates to me to read: Death matters—has depth, value, weight. Love—life doesn't. It's feel-good, frivolous, lightweight. And not to say confronting one's own mortality isn't a difficult and necessary task, but without love and life, why do we want to stay alive? Every condolence letter I write turns into an acknowledgement of how very precious life is—how love makes it that way—and how the challenge now is to reach out with deeper appreciation to those that remain.
It is not a time to complain that some colleague's language is too rigid or limiting, or doesn't say this, or I don't agree with that. Let's keep our eye on the donut and focus on the fact that love matters.
Perhaps, like in It's a Wonderful Life, one could ask what the world—or just your life—would be like without it.