Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Outland-ish Crush

I've always turned up my nose at "romance".

Okay, yes...as a teenage girl I devoured Danielle Steele and Kathleen Woodiwiss, sighing wistfully and forming somewhat hackneyed ideals about love, sex, and marriage.

But as I matured, so did my taste in reading material, as well as my philosophy regarding it. Simply put, life is too short to read crap. There is too much wonderful literature out there, too many brilliant authors. I hunger to know them. So, I resolved not to waste my time reading sensationalistic garbage.

I do enjoy a good thriller, and sometimes I need something purely frivolous to calm the tempest of thought raging in my head. I don't automatically dismiss an author simply because he or she is at the height of popularity, though I did, for a while, steadfastly refuse to read anything on Oprah's book club list. But for the most part, I try to stick to reading that is enriching of the mind and spirit.

Yes. I have, on more than one occasion, been called a book snob.

So you see why "romance" has largely been stricken from my list of acceptable reading. You know the type of tripe I'm talking about..."Bodice Rippers" as I often refer to them. Formulaic foibles of hero and heroine, replete with heaving bosoms, throbbing loins, and plenty of laving.

Now, as a rule, I'm a pretty big fan of laving in general. LOVE me some laving. Can't live without it, in fact.

But.

I'd rather experience it than read about it, especially when the descriptives employed are couched in time-worn cliches and sophomoric euphemisms and the recipients of which, are unfailingly fair of body and face, with nary an ass pimple or nipple hair to be found.

Blech.

So, imagine my surpise and chagrin at finding myself utterly, completely, inextricably and undeniably addicted to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

In four weeks I have read, nay...consumed...four of the books. I have stayed up into the wee hours reading, knowing my alarm would be going off at 6 am, and not caring, reading on with reckless abandon, wholly unable to stop turning pages. I have bargained with myself as the minutes ticked by on the clock...just 30 more minutes, one more chapter, just until I find out if...telling myself, that if I stop at 12:00, I can still get 6 hours of sleep. I can make do with 5. 4, and I'll take a nap after I wash all the bedclothes and remake the beds.

I have carried them with me everywhere..the ballpark, the orthodontist, the therapist...hoping for a few stolen moments of reading during the day. I have, for the first time ever, been tempted to read ahead, compelled in a way I have never, ever experienced before to know if my beloved Claire and Jamie have made it through the next crisis. Lived to see another day. Found one another after being separated by oceans of time and the obligations of another life.

And not only am I consumed by their fate. When I am away from them, I miss them, as if they were flesh and blood human beings. I think and wonder and worry about what will happen to them next. I have always had the ability to become completely immersed in a book. In truth, while I am reading, the story becomes my reality. But this really surpasses anything I have ever experienced.

Frankly, I'm a little embarassed by it.

But I'm in good and plentiful company I've found. Apparently, Outlander has a HUGE following. I really had no idea.

There are fansites, discussion groups, dubious artistic renderings, and magazine articles.

People have even created videos.



That guy is SO not Jamie, though I quite like Kate Beckinsale as Claire.

Anyway....

After forgiving myself for the lapse in taste and judgement, I began to realize that categorizing these books as "romance" is a heinous oversimplification and gross injustice. True, there is certainly romance novel-esque contrivance and cliche. And its true that somtimes, the loose ends are tied up far too tidily to be anything but a vehicle of convenience.

But Diana Gabaldon is an incredible storyteller, and I like her writing style a lot. Girlfriend doesn't shy away from big words or a run on sentence. Truly, a woman after my own heart.

Outlander is a sweeping historical epic, exhaustively researched, unimpeachable in it's authenticity. The plot is complex but plausible, the many twists surprising, but tenable. It is all woven together with rich imagery and commendable attention to detail. The language, the culture, and the humanity of the 17th century Scottish Highlands are brought to life by the artistry with which they are written. I could see, hear, smell and taste the world described within the pages. I was, and am, utterly lost in it.

But it's the characters that make Outlander really compelling. Like the writing, they are infused with a sincerity and a passion that is rare. They are so well developed that they practically breathe and because of that, they inspire in the reader a unique affection. We like them. We love them. We hope for them and we fear for them. And when I have read the last book, I will mourn the loss of them.

Simple romance? No. Certainly not. There is romance to be sure, and the really delicious kind that will give a gal a whopping case of heaving bosom. But it so, so, so much more.

When searching for Outlander at my local Barnes and Noble, I was dismayed to find that it had, perhaps predictably, been placed in the romance section. I told the clerk that it really didn't belong there, because it was so much more than just a romance.

He said with a bit of a smirk and smidge of condescension, "Yeah, I know, I hear that all the time."

I felt compelled to defend myself, and indeed, I realized, I was holding the other books in my arms in such a way as to display the titles clearly to his view. They were respectable books. Real literature. Snob worthy.

But I knew that when I got home, it would be the lastest Outlander that made it's way out of the jaunty green bag first. And, that it would be quite some time before anything "respectable" claimed my attention again.

I suppose, I will simply have to redefine my terms in order to live with myself.

Well done, Ms. Gabaldon. Well done.

13 Comments:

  • At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Andrea said…

    Funny--I wrote a post just this morning about genre, only science fiction, not romance.

    *ahem* Take this for what it's worth (my opinion and $3 will get you on the subway), but if it's a romance novel, then dammit, love romance. Personally, nothing bugs me more (well, that's not true) than when someone loves a science fiction book and, instead of revising their opinion of the genre, decides that this one special book/series isn't really a science fiction. And I say this as someone who can't stand romance novels, including the Gabaldon series, because it's just not the way my head works. But IMO, no genre is inherently trashy or worthy of outright dismissal.

     
  • At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm generally a lurker here, but just had to comment.

    Welcome to the club. The Outlander series has been read, re-read, then read again by just about all my closest friends.

    It gets better every time.

     
  • At 3:02 PM, Blogger bubandpie said…

    What I always say about romantic comedies - and, by extension, romance novels - is that it's not a trashy genre: it's a genre that's difficult to write well. The same thing goes, I think, for writing about one's children - there's nothing inherently trivial or boring about any subject-matter: the trick is to do it well enough to be engaging.

     
  • At 8:51 PM, Blogger Bimbo said…

    Alright, so what's more important: maintaining my (self)image as a lit elitist, or enjoying a good read no matter what category it falls under? It may be time for me to venture into the romance section without making yuckyface in case someone sees me.

     
  • At 9:29 AM, Blogger CPA Mom said…

    These are my all time favorite books. And your post tells exactly why. Thank you. I'm kind of lost waiting for the next one.

     
  • At 3:35 PM, Anonymous mamatulip said…

    I'm really not one for romance either -- the closest I've gotten to romance is "Rebecca" and "Anne of Green Gables" (her relationship with Gilbert Blythe still makes me blush...). But after reading this post, I might have to reconsider my stance on romance.

    (Look at me, being all poetic and rhyme-y.)

     
  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    This is my first time here and I loved every single post on the first page. You've convinced me to read the Outlander Series and I agree completely with your assessments of the Louvre. I'll be back!

     
  • At 7:29 PM, Blogger Rock the Cradle said…

    Oh dear. Time to go to the library. I've never read romance, but this sounds good right now.

    And wow, dude does not even age. He looks exactly the same on House!

     
  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger Shel said…

    I have to agree with you about that guy not being Jamie. He is so not how I picture him. I like the other characterizations though. I can't remember the name of the guy that plays Randall, he's on House and I loved the movie they used clips from with him and Claire, Much Ado About Nothing. The Outlander books are some of my favs. I reread them every year, in the fall usually. I didn't think I would like them when a friend recommended them six years ago but I couldn't put them down. I now wait eagerly for each installment. I am so glad there is to be at least one more book.

     
  • At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Gurukarm said…

    You are SO right on, girl! It was the science fiction aspect that first drew me into this series, the great writing that kept me going, and not until quite a lot later that I realized she'd cleverly threw in quite a bit of the standard "romance" stuff. But, because she absolutely avoids the major thing I hate about romance, the lack of character development, and, oh yeah, some PLOT!, I too fell in love with this series. Can't wait for the next one. She IS writing another, isn't she??? please please please!!

     
  • At 6:12 PM, Blogger Mazenbloo said…

    Bravo! Bravo! Another lover of the Gabaldon series of books. After the first 50 pages of Outlander I was hooked. Consumed. She has an amazing talent in story writing.

     
  • At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Jenny said…

    I feel your pain. I always want to yell "Hey guys, I'm just looking for Ray Bradbury!" when I'm in the sci-fi section.

    I'm ready for him to die so they'll finally move him to the "classics" section.

    Poor Ray. He'd be so sad if he knew I was wishing him ill.

     
  • At 9:28 PM, Blogger Lucy's Mom said…

    It feels sometimes like Jamie and Claire are my best friends, and then I remind myself they are characters in a book. Hard to remember sometimes, they are so real. You nailed it right on the head with your description of the books. They are incredible, wonderful, fantastic and addictive reading. Can't get enough. You are SOOO right about the video. That guy is no way Jamie. I enjoy your blog greatly. Keep writing.

     

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