Monday, January 9, 2012

In Which I Am Very Mean & Speak In Generalities

Why I Now Hate Erotic Romance

In the history of American Arts & Letters there have been many persons convinced of their own ability to write. Since they speak the language, they are certain that they can wield a pen and produce a story, transferring the errant imagination into a book. Writing, in this view, is considered an extension--albeit a skilled extension--of the human capacity for speech and not, as with music or painting, an art which requires such paltry and mythical substances such as genius. Talent is reduced to a mere function of the desire to write without pause to consider whether or not one should write. Thus, thwarted liberal arts majors have often dreamt of the day (retirement, perhaps?) when they would be able to finally sit down and write the Great American Novel, only to discover that such a novel neither exists (at least in the singular) nor is so easy to produce as they once thought.

But at least these men and women, for all their naivite, understand that writing is a craft, something one must work at and something one must have time to do. Their dream of writing the Great American Novel stems from a desire to prodcue art. It is a worthwhile and lofty desire. Those who wish to write literature at least value the English language in all its unruly glory and recognize that it takes time to craft a novel. One would not suppose this to be the case for writers of erotic romance who seem to be under the mistaken impression that merely putting periods after words constitutes narrative progression and that the development of a love story can be totally reduced to declarations of "I love you" around a mouthful of cock. Based upon this sloppy and ugly use of language, I can only suspect their desire is less about art and more about cashing in on a lucrative publishing trend.

I did not always loathe erotic romance with this level of contempt or even at all, but persistent crimes against narrative have taught me not just cyncism, but hatred. There are, of course, exceptions. There are always exceptions. But if the ability to speak the English language has convinced some that it is easy to write it, then erotic romance is a genre that suffers the additional handicap of people thinking that just because they have fucked, that they can write convincingly about fucking. Let me be very clear: It Does Not. The overwhelming amount of badly written, narratively prefunctory, ethically problematic drivel being produced under the heading of "erotic romance" is as numberless as the sands of the Sahara. If I were a writer of erotic romance, I would be enraged by the crapulence daily glutting my genre and obscuring my own work. 

In case you are wondering, the book that inspired this post was Food for the Gods by Camille Anthony. There is nothing exceptionally wrong with this book. I mean, there weren't bull-shifters in it (Loving Scarlett which Jane from Dear Author did for a rom fail) or anything. No. The book was generic and that was precisely its problem. It exhibited tendencies (negligently deployed) I keep coming across whenever I try to explore the erotic romance genre. Tendencies that I find both troubling and persistent. It is true that there are other authors who use these tendencies with a higher level of skill, but the tendencies themselves are what I find problematic. However, I think these tendencies are the result of some unexamined premises upon which many erotic romance novels are founded. I will outline them as follows: