Barbara, Hugh, and Me

July 28th, 2008

So much to blog about! Really, lots has been going on–aside from the usual stuff, like trying to make my deadline and attempting to avoid my summer nemesis: bugs. I hate them. They love me. There are a lot more of them than there are of me. They are winning–mostly involving the amount of (not necessarily positive) attention the New York Times has been paying to commercial women’s and YA fiction lately.

There was this article mentioning all the new books in which fashion plays a large part in the narrative, and the vicarious thrill readers can get from reading about Birkin bags and Hermes scarves, and this article by a concerned dad wondering if the authors get paid for mentioning these products (they don’t), and if it’s really good for young readers to be exposed to so many mentions of Prada (it turns out it’s fine).

Honestly though, from a writer’s point of view, sometimes you just need a good brand name to set the tone, or define the character. And hardly anyone has bothered mentioning that describing your characters by what or who they’re wearing isn’t anything new in literature. Chaucer and Shakespeare did it, for God’s sake (Fustian gypon, anyone?).

I thought the YA article by the concerned dad was particularly satisfying (and had the cutest ending), as it contained the quote “Educators should not ignore the pleasures of reading romance novels,” especially in light of the fact that this week is the Romance Writer’s of America national conference, which will take place in San Francisco this year. I won’t be there as I’ve got a deadline, but if you’re in the SF area, you should definitely check out the literacy signing at the Marriott Wednesday night, where tons of your favorite Chick Lit, YA, women’s fiction, and romance writers will be selling and signing their books to raise money for literacy. Get there early as the lines will be long!

There was another article in the Times this Sunday saying today’s youth don’t read anymore. This isn’t the first article to sound the death knell for reading, and it won’t be the last. I was going to blog about it, but now I don’t have to, because A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy already said everything I was going to say about it. So thanks for that! I owe you a Fiesta Giles action figure.

Anyway, I used to babysit for someone whose daughter would read nothing but The Sweet Valley High books. I mean, she wouldn’t read anything but those books. And her parents despaired of her, because they didn’t think those books counted as reading.

I used to go, “I’m sure she’ll be fine,” because my reading choices were not what some people would consider the best either. Oh, sure, I read “the classics,” too, but given the choice, what I totally went for at the time were Barbara Cartland romance novels—


(Okay, I just Googled Imaged Barbara Cartland and this came up. That’s Hugh Grant! He was in a Barbara Cartland made-for-TV romance! And yeah, I totally saw it.)

Time passed, and I would just like to point out that I was right. The kid grew up to get a PhD, and now she’s a professor…in guess what?

That’s right, children’s literature.

So, I’m just saying. Don’t ever judge people by what they read, especially for pleasure. It doesn’t measure how smart they are, or what they’re going to be when they get older.

More later.

Much love,

Meg