Friday, April 15, 2005

Escapist Literature

I see The Times (it is known as The Times not the London Times simply because it was the first in the world -- same reason UK stamps don't carry the name of the country) that Danuta Kean, the chairman of the judges for the RNA award has said more. I do so agree with this woman and her criticism of the lit-crit boys.

All literature is escapist by definition. It is fiction, not non-fiction. At some level, it provides an escape for the reader from their current situation. Why are disturbing images better than upbeat? Why is a happily ever after less realistic than absolute depression? Fiction embraces both tragedy (where everyone dies) and comedy (where everyone lives). The forms have been set since the Greeks.
Why are angst and depression more profound than growth and love? Why does being optimistic about the world not count for as much as unrelenting pessimism?
The books that ultimately become classics generally show the strength of the human spirit, the fortitude and triumph against the odds. All these happen time and again in romance as well as in so called worthy books.
I fail to see why the greatest of all human emotions is constantly dismissed as trite. Is it because the critics are uncomfortable with the thought that emotions matter?
Ultimately what the critics think initially is no guide to the longevity of a work. Many of the classics were panned. Austen was asked to write something more profound like history. Dickens was dismissed as a hack. I wonder about some of Shakespeare's first night reviews. Was Romeo and Juliet universally loved? What about the Comedy of Errors or Taming of the Shrew?
Luckily for writers of happy endings, the public has refused to listen to the oh so superior council of the litcrits and continues to buy romance and optimistic literature, thus keeping in print books that the lit-crits dismissed. Other books that the lit-crits praised to high heavens have failed to make the advances. It is more likely that the oft reprinted book becomes a classic than the critically acclaimed only one edition book.
I know the type of books I want to write and read. And I refuse to apologize for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Michelle!

Give me growth, love and a happy ever after every time.