misty gish (tanglespiders) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,
misty gish

NYT Books covered romance novels this week and people are understandably thrilled

- This week's cover story, written by 86-year-old Robert Gottlieb, is promisingly headlined "A Roundup of the Season's Romance Titles," but when the first book covered is Julia Quinn's 2000 classic The Duke and I, you know you're in for an ironic, condescending ride. Which you really should have expected from the Times at this point, come on.

- While the genre can be critiqued well by people who know what they're talking about, this roundup immediately descends into the rote, distanced, condescending tone you'd expect from the old Gray Lady. From Julia Quinn's 17-year-old novel, he goes on to cover Cheris Hodges' Deadly Rumors with an eyebrow-raising "Oh, yes; Zoe and Carver are African-Americans, though except for some scattered references to racial matters, you'd never know it," and then a warmer review of Catherine Anderson's (apparently "clean romance") The Christmas Room, which makes you wonder if he's a Pioneer Woman fan.

- He decries the repetitiveness of historical romances, while only focusing on Regency ones that support his argument, but worst of all are the boners. Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland didn't need boners! "No Cartland heroine ever came into contact with a hardened rod." Sure, you might run headlong into racism and anti-Semitism, but at least Heyer kept it couth.

- And, as with all things, it turns to Fifty Shades of Grey. Sure, he just listed all these books that feature empowerment and women with well-rounded lives, but that doesn't explain why (Rushdie-approved, of course) 50SOG is popular. Do women really just want to be spanked by zillionaires? Or is this sudden turn to Christian Grey simply yet another expression of the NYT's magnetic attraction to the taint of whichever billionaire authoritarian looks their way? Anyway, if that's not your thing, he has some "adorable" Debbie Macomber to rec you.

- After thousands of words about how romance novels are either P&P or Jane Eyre, it looks like his editor made him throw in a paragraph at the end about how romance novels actually cover everything under the sun, "[i]ts readership is vast, its satisfactions apparently limitless, its profitability incontestable. And its effect? Harmless, I would imagine. Why shouldn’t women dream?" In other words, "women are dumb, and will buy and come to whatever tripe you put on display, but fine." The entire thing reads like it was suggested ironically, like it would be funny to have their prudish peer read silly fluff for an "honest" take.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, & 4
Tags: books / authors
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