Blogging and genre – Armchair BEA Day 2

Well, it’s day 2 of Armchair BEA, and today, there are two topics: Blogger Development & Genre Fiction.

I’m certain I’m imposing my own insecurities on the question, but I have to be honest and admit that the very notion of assessing my development as a blogger makes me feel a bit inadequate.  The truth is that I consider this blog to be a hobby, a thing I do because I enjoy it, not because of any external pressure to perform.  Even if no one read this blog, I would still write it.  With that starting position, I feel very little compulsion to promote my blog, and if I drop off the map for three weeks because I’m unbelievably busy, I don’t feel at all bad about it.  That’s not to say that I don’t take this blog seriously — quite the opposite — but I don’t measure success in terms of popularity or marketability.  I have a job, and this blog isn’t it.

That said, I have developed quite a lot over the past year.  For one thing, I’m a better reader than I was.  For another, I’m a better writer.  Best of all, this past year of blogging has helped me to chip away at my habitual reserve, to make some friends (never easy for me to do), to say some true things and put them out there for all the world to see (should the world go out of its way to find my little corner of unreserve…), to try new things.  It has been a fantastic year, but these successes can be measured only on my peculiar scale.

Abrupt subject change: I’m all about genre fiction!  To be honest, I think all fiction can easily be categorized as genre fiction of some sort or other.  I know folk have a strong inclination to distinguish literary fiction from the sordid genre type, but this inclination seems like misplaced snobbery to me.  All fiction is the work of scribbling human hands to explain some part of the human experience.  Maybe that explanation comes in the form of alien planets or vampire stalkers or amorous dukes and barmaids or neurotic narrators recounting their entire misspent lives; the connecting thread running through each of those stories is the humanity of their authors.  (In case you’re curious, I did just lump Children of the MindTwilightAny Duchess Will Do, and In Search of Lost Time into one category, Aristotle be damned.)

Some authors undoubtedly write better than others, some come closer to achieving a real art, some have more skill at using the lies of story and narrative to tell a truth about who we are as humans, but when we assign categories to writers, we hobble ourselves as readers and limit the artistic reach of those writers.  (We also inflate the egos of those writers and critics fortunate enough to be the gatekeepers of literary quality.)

I suppose I should scramble down from my soap box now and talk about the kind of stories I most want to read.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good story.  When I was in elementary school and junior high, I read whatever I could get my hands on: library books, school books, my mother’s books, etc.  I didn’t precisely have a favorite genre because I was just obsessed with the written word and all the knowledge it contained.  The first book I read that truly took my breath away was Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming.  In junior high, I discovered fantasy books, and I read The Hobbit and tried to read The Lord of the Rings (I didn’t succeed in reading it until I was 20 and had achieved something like patience); I read Terry Brooks and Piers Anthony, and a bunch of truly terrible Dragonlance books.  Then I read Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series (books 1-4) and W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neil Gear’s The First North Americans Series.  Then I read Les Miserables and discovered that what I liked most in all those stories I’d read was any inkling of the redemptive power of love.  Strange as it might be, it was a short skip for me from Les Miserables to romance novels, because that’s where all the love stories hide.

These days, I read romance novels almost exclusively.  Some of them are terrible, and some of them are incandescently wonderful.  I highly recommend each of the following.

19 thoughts on “Blogging and genre – Armchair BEA Day 2

  1. Ah I can’t wait for Hoyt’s Duke of Midnight! i like Ruthie Knox even though I’ve only read one of hers and really enjoyed her. I agree about romances-they can be hit or miss, but I still like them. One of new favorites was Jessica Lemmon’s Tempting the Billionaire. I just adore Shane like there is no tomorrow.

    Jess @ Literary, etc.

    • I will have to check that out. I confess that I tend to run away from anything that snacks of the billionaire theme, but I’d be ecstatic to discover a billionaire book that breaks with the recent tradition by being good… 😉 Thanks!

  2. I agree with your point about literary fiction and genre fiction. I’ve become quite adamant lately that genre fiction CAN have literary value.

  3. I think knowing your stance and opinion on how you want to run your blog is extremely important. I don’t set a lot of goals for myself in terms of visitors or comments, but I do occasionally set reading goals and post consistency goals just because I like the rhythm and pattern. Tattooed Books

    • That’s a good point, and goals are extremely helpful. I have an unrealistic goal of posting about every book I read (unrealistic both because I don’t have enough time to write all those posts and because I doubt folk would be interested in hearing about all those books…), and a secondary goal of writing two posts per week, but I regularly fail at both goals, especially recently. That said, having the goals in place gives me something to work towards. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Oooh, I really want to read Big Boy. Thanks for reminding me about that. I agree that all those authors you listed are really good.

    I never read Les Mis because I don’t have patience, so I avoid long books. Then Chris from Bookarama told me there were like 100 pages about the sewers and I was like, “No thank you.” But I did think The Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe were good classic romances.

    • it also has about 100 pages of Waterloo, which takes place a good thirty years before the story, not to mention every major political event in France from 1815-1848….. but I still loved it. Pages 900-905 ( in my copy) made everything worth it. Also, I’m crazy.

  5. I used to love reading romance. Then my kids got older and during a Mother’s Day ‘game show’ at church they had to answer questions about me….’what’s Mom’s favorite book?’. Their answer was ‘Blaze (Harlequin Romance)’. I about died from some of the looks!

    • I am, too. I used to be a terrible snob while carrying on my romance reading in the closet, as it were. In my late teens and early twenties, I had this rule that I wouldn’t read a book unless the author had been dead for fifty years — my one exception was for Joan Didion (and all those romance novels I never told people about…) — but I was (a) stifling myself by refusing to allow the merit of anything published more recently and (b) perpetuating the wrongheaded notion that works of real merit require the proof of several decades of stuffy old men validating their worth before they can be accepted as really worthwhile. And what does that prove, anyway? Having squashed much of my snobbery, I’m a much happier person; surely that’s better than qualifying for the elusive moniker “well read.” Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Pingback: On literary fiction – Armchair BEA 2013 – Day 3 | readingwithanalysis

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