I've been thinking of the consumption of reading since this topic came up on the academic romance blog, teach me tonight. I had been experiencing novel withdrawal myself, and so I checked out 4 novels from the public library yesterday, including a few romance novels by authors mentioned (or met) at the PCA conference last week. After zipping through all my must-do's yesterday, I settled in with Susan Elizabeth Philips' *Match Me if You Can,* which proved to be a wonderful and smart modern romance novel...
But something stranged happened part way through the reading. I realized why I stopped reading RN's (romance novels) for a time...they just seemed so unlike real life, or sadly, at least the bulk of my romantic life. The beauty of the RN is that the hero and heroine overcome any obstacles--the primary obstacle often involving one party's hesitancy to commit to love. Somehow, they have a grand revelation and love reigns triumphant.
It's for this reason that some critics feel RN's are dangerous, setting women readers up for disappointment when their own relationships don't always so nicely resolve themselves. And, as anyone with a failed relationship knows, the tears and pain are not always assuaged with the hero's return. Rather, they're ofeten soothed with other material goods (chocolate, ice cream, wine, MAC lipgloss, strappy sandals--all the chick lit cliches) and long thoughts/discussions with friends about what went wrong. But I digress.
But as I tried to suspend my cynicism mid-novel, I thought that RN's also offer readers something really powerful: HOPE. While a real world relationship won't likely be as smooth (or as quirky or beset with so many obstacles) as the RN version, the RN whispers in our ear not to give up hope that there is a real love possibility out there for everyone. And that small lesson sometimes needs to be heard...especially by disillusioned idealists and erstwhile romantics:)
Anyway, I set my cynicism aside, gave myself over to the story, breathed in the promise of hope, and finished the story, happy for Annabelle and Heath (the main characters).
Then, in true reading binge form (think of *Literacy and Longing in LA*), I picked up yet another novel, Jenny Crusie's *Anyone But You* and tucked in for the rest of the night. I finished that one about 2am, without the same critical diversion mid-novel, and then settled into sleep, sure that I would wake up with a reading hangover, but delightfully, I didn't.
I have new critical thoughts--wanting to explore the consumption within and of RN's and what they might tell us about the relationship between readers and authors and narrative worlds....stay tuned as I develop these ideas...
As for more literal consumption, today I will make a mediterranean feast for a girl's movie night, as well as deep chocolate cupcakes topped with a marshmallowy meringue frosting for a little party with some former students tomorrow. Hoorah!