While convalescing (when my son allows) I’ve been engaging in the sport that is reading romance. Having been on a literary bender for more than a year now the only romances I’ve truly endeavored to read have been few and far between and in most cases ones I had already read. Yes, when I get into a comfort read state of mind I go all out and read old tried and true stories. This time, as I had already exhausted my rereading of certain chapters from various books, I read a new one that had been languishing on my TBR shelf for the last six months or so. It was a fun read but, as is often the case, I felt the author over played their hand.
Let me be clear: I don’t have the same expectations of pop fiction as I do literary fiction, however, I can’t help but wonder about what passes for clever these days. The tale in this instance was far less explicit than I had thought it would be and amazingly well researched leading me to have some respect for the author but, truth be told, I’m sure glad I didn’t go out and buy more than one or two of her books way back whenever it was. The reason was all the pop references AND an ending so hoaky it had me thinking almost longingly of that overly emotional, ridiculous epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I’ve read some romance novels where this wasn’t the case (yes, all THOSE books were published prior to 1995) and am somewhat disappointed that this is where the genre has evolved to. All the mentions of Brad Pitt and The Matrix aside it was this compulsion to be “cute”, or perhaps “cool”, that struck me as very frustrating. I don’t like reading Greek Gods like Aphrodite and Athena saying things like “kick some ass” or what have you as it diminished the drama of the black moment – that wonderful space where the reader is engaged and genuinely concerned they won’t get their happy ending and there it was: Soap Opera.
That worry I have as a reader is something I expect an author to capitalize upon, to give some extra oomph to make me flip the page with dread and hope in my heart not have me roll my eyes. But roll my eyes I did. Just as I would have when watching a scene in a film/show where things are so over the top, the actress going into a faint with her hand, palm facing outward, to her forehead and saying “The room is spinning, please catch me my darling!” then promptly falling into the arms of nearest flavor of the day. It left me, the viewer/reader, asking what the author was seriously intending.
If it is bad drama that was the goal does that mean the bet is being made the majority of people won’t care about the quality? Or that they will and they like that quality? Or, worse still, that it doesn’t matter because genre readers are genre readers and the books will sell anyway?
What is the limit for you, as a reader or writer, in the use of poorly executed drama (intentional or not)? Is it more acceptable in certain mediums? Perhaps just specific works or even just specific moments in certain works?