My friend and fellow blogger, Becky Miller, left a comment yesterday on my now infamous (and what will surely be one of my most viewed posts of 2011) P.S. I Love You. Apparently, I’m still getting flak even when I make a concession. Sheesh! Anyway, I thought Becky’s question was important and felt it would be helpful to our conversation to post our exchange. (Plus, I know Becky likes the press. JK, Becky!). And for the record, Becky and I are critique partners, compatriots, fellow believers, Laker fans, and opinionated.
So Becky wrote,
Here’s the thing I found most interesting in your post: “I have never read a CBA romance novel — historical, contemporary, or otherwise.” You are one honest dude, and the email writer shouldn’t be mad at you or stop visiting your blog. But she should, in my opinion, call you on things like this. On what basis have you vociferously oppose the genre in the past since you haven’t read it? It would appear you have done so by hearsay. But who are you listening to and forming your opinion?
And finally, will reading one book in the genre put you in a position to make categorical statements about the entire group?
See, this is the very thing I chafe against when it comes to editors making categorical statements about speculative fiction. Which one represents them all?
Okay. These are some great points. Here’s my long-winded response:
That’s a great question, Becky and, frankly, one I find pretty easy to answer. First, it’s a mischaracterization to say I “vociferously oppose the genre” of Romance. I don’t. A world — and a bookstore — without romance would be a boring place. However, I think Christian authors and readers should bring a different set of values and expectations to the subject, just as we should to any genre we write and read in. Much of my objections / criticisms relate to this collision between the Romance genre and Christian culture and values. We should think deeply about this (as we should about the Horror genre, the Sci-fi genre, etc.). In fact, if you peruse my archives, you’ll find plenty of articles on Christianity and Spec-fic, Horror, Sci-fi, etc. So Romance is not the only target of my ongoing over-thinking. But I personally don’t consider myself “vociferously oppose[d to] the genre.”
Second, Do you withhold criticism and/or opinion from everything you have NOT actually seen or read (like R-rated movies, horror novels, chick flicks, Rob Bell’s books, etc.)? Answer: None of us do. Of course, without firsthand knowledge, some of our criticism / opinions may be skewed. But depending upon the info we’ve gathered about said genre, our criticism / opinions might be spot on.
The issue is not whether I’ve read CBA romance novels, as much as Are my criticisms valid? The objection that we can’t criticize or form opinions about things we haven’t seen or read CAN BE a smokescreen. I mean, How many CBA romance novels must one read before they can start leveling “informed” criticism? Five, ten, twenty? And is the same true of horror, steampunk, erotica, vampire lit, urban fantasy, espionage, bio-thrillers, westerns, noir, New Age, etc., etc.? I haven’t read the Twilight series but know enough about it and its fans to be able to make some educated observations. Is this wrong? Some may think so. I don’t.
Much of my critique about Romance comes from what I know it to be: Written by women, for women, dealing with women’s issues, often light, sometimes snarky, occasionally heavy, and frequently containing “relational” elements. Am I wrong? All one needs to do is peruse the covers of the Women’s Fiction aisle to get an idea what they’re aiming for. Could this be stereotyping? Absolutely. Is it always? Not necessarily.
I don’t mind being told where I’m wrong about my observations / criticisms of CBA Romance (as I hope some of my recent posts have shown). However, I think some of the flak I get may be an indication that I’m hitting a nerve.
And, oh, by the way… Since I’m taking the Romance Challenge, maybe you should take the Horror Challenge. I’ve got several novels I can recommend.
I appreciate Becky leaving that comment and, pretty much, know my response won’t satisfy everyone. That’s all right. I’m beginning to wonder if just having this conversation, and remaining civil, is a really good thing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read Redeeming Love…