I don’t read just to feel, I read to think, and to be forced to think whether I feel like it or not. If my reading only involved feeling I’d stop reading fiction and find a different way to spend my time.
This sentiment has been rolling around inside my brain for months now, mostly in a muddy, inchoate form so that I can’t quite get a handle on it, and it refuses to go away. It crystallized for me this week through a series of conversations and articles. First, Jane wrote a piece on romance readers’ hard limits. Then there was a Twitter argument about whether books over 1088 pages are “just too long … no matter how skilled a writer you are.” And then this morning I read two articles on elitism and literature. Are we elitist because we think people who damn long, somewhat complex books as “boring” are missing important aspects of the reading experience, and of literature as an artistic form?
I thought Jane’s column was terrific and I wanted to comment. But I kept coming up against a barrier: I don’t really have hard limits. Every time someone asks what the no-go areas in romance are for me, I have to stop and think. Like every other romance reader I have storylines and characterizations I avoid. But a hard limit? There isn’t one.
I have learned that many genre authors don’t have the time and/or skill to provide the nuances I need in a book that features certain kinds of characters or certain historical settings. But that doesn’t mean no author will ever manage it, and I want to remain open to the possibility. Some readers have a rule that they will read all kinds of scenarios outside the genre but romances can’t have X, Y, or Z. I’m not that kind of reader either.
I think my lack of hard limits is due to the way I read romance, i.e., I read it the way I read all fiction. Continue reading