Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Converted by tales of yearning

Once upon a time, I was a snob about what I read. No mass-market fiction, unless coerced by someone important to me, or unless I was sitting on the beach with a little chick-lit.

In my free time, I read literature. Period. (And the newspaper, of course.)

Friends had recommended romance novels, and I would smile, make a supposedly interested comment and change the conversation. (I even edited -- and enjoyed reading -- a thrice-weekly column about romance novels. But I wouldn't crack a book.)

That was once upon a time. I realized, a few months back, that what I thought was a shogun-era Japanese adventure series called "Tales of the Otori" was really a shogun-era Japanese bodice-ripper full of phrases like "he yearned for her warmth" and "he felt his sex tingle."

There were sex scenes. Love triangles. Romantic hurdles of epic proportions, leading to tearing of hair and renting of garments.

And I really mean epic. There are three books in the original series, plus a prequel. I reserved them all, with relish, at the library. I read them in a span of two weeks -- even though, after book two, I could no longer justify it by calling the author a modern-day J.R.R. Tolkien. (She is not.)

When I realized what I was doing, at first I felt a little dirty. And then I started to wonder about what was so appealing about the stories. And I think it's this: A really good romance novelist, like any good writer, can tell a simple story of boy meets girl, or vice versa, and they fall in love -- and take you into their world so completely that you get lost. You become enthralled.

I did. And for a few hours, I wasn't worried about the economy or my job or cleaning the house.

I just enjoyed following the path Takeo and Kaede traveled toward their destiny. (And I suppose I learned a bit about Japanese culture and history.)

Am I ready to start reading Janet Evanovich and Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb? Hmmm. Maybe someone can convince me I should.


Sarah G said...

You have to try Dorothy Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles. Most are out of print, but can be found in libraries and used book stores. It's a series of six 500-page plus historical novels set in Scotland and Europe of the 1500's. I have never been so entralled with a series of books in my life. The literary references are legion and occasionally maddening, the characters have depth and capture your heart. They aren't really romance novels, though there is the best romance story I've ever read woven through the books (and the most satisfactory ending to a romantic tale that you could ever imagine at the end). There is very little that will keep me up reading to the wee hours these days, but I was squinty eyed and grumpy for weeks when I discovered them!

Anonymous said...

When is the next round of Observer job cuts going to take place?

spinelabel said...

People I respect have recommended Dorothy Dunnett, but I found her too dense and elliptical for my taste. Just because I had trouble keeping track of who was who and where they were, doesn't mean you shouldn't give The Lymond Chronicles a try. If you encounter similar difficulties, however, try Cordelia's Honor by Lois Bujold. Yes, it's science-fiction, but it's a character-driven romance with lots of imagination and humor. Alas, not available at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, but cheap on Amazon. It's also the beginning of a long series, so there's plenty of good reading ahead if you like it.

Anonymous said...

Oh lord, I know how you feel. I used to be the same way about only reading "literature," but the last few months it seems like I don't want to read anything other than romance (mostly supernatural romances). I recommend Kim Harrison, J.R. Ward, Richelle Mead, Charlaine Harris...and yes, I have to say it -- the first 3 Twilight novels are great. I'm 33 years old, definitely not a teenager, but I absolutely loved them. The 4th book in the series was just okay. I downloaded a J.D. Robb sample on my Kindle but haven't read it yet. (J.D. Robb and Nora Roberts are the same person, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

Well, if you are going to mention Charlaine Harris, then I would also recommend Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series and Katie MacAlister's Dark Ones series, both excellent romance/fantasy style. And of course, Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books are now being converted to TV via the series "True Blood".

Anonymous said...

My librarian recommended the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon - saying "I know you don't really go for science fiction but..." I was hooked after the first chapter!

Anonymous said...

This is journalism? Give me a break. One week it's the critic's corner, the next it's pseudo-Dear-Abbie. Ladies, get a real job, will you. The tripe you come up with on a weekly basis is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 3:09 (and Anonymouse at 12:22 for that matter)... how many times do we have to say it - if you don't like it DON'T READ IT!!! No one is forcing you! It's a blog. It's not meant to be heavy hitting journalism. Come here and you're gonna read about crushes, fights with boyfriends, romance novels, one night stands, etc... That's what it's supposed to be. Stop being such a grouchy a-hole and move on to something that's a little more up your alley and please stop trying to make yourself feel more important by putting other people down. Please.

Anonymous said...

Oh and Anonymous at 3:09... you were so busy being "clever" that you didn't bother to read the intro for this blog... they both have "real" jobs. "Alicia Roberts (39, married, two kids) is a news editor at the Charlotte Observer. Deirdre McGruder (39, single) is an online producer for"

Cedar Posts and Life Floating By said...

Read what you like!

I've read every novel penned by John Updike, yet James Patterson, his errors, and poor repetive storylines, can collect dust on the night stand.

And it all started with Steinbeck

You see I hated reading, because until I broke free of people telling me what to read, I understood the enjoyment of discovering a good book on my own.

So... go explore!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 4:14 -- Working at The Charlotte Observer hardly qualifies as a real job. Just ask Tonya Jameson, "Whassup?"

Anonymous said...

"...happily single and not looking for a mate (but some men can convince her to go on trial runs)."

Is trial runs the new euphemism for jumping into bed with a guy?