In an earlier post, I confessed that the older I get, the more I enjoy reading to escape.
In my youth, I read and studied great works of literature and classics. I went through a period where I devoured all I could of Shakespeare’s works, studied Chaucer and suffered through Sylvia Plath. I moved on to poetry, then a few biographies, attempted to be interested in non-fiction….until I landed my feet quite squarely in the world of fictional novels.
Even in the world of fiction, over time I have moved to lighter and lighter fare. I no longer need to get buried in a 900-page book that requires a map to keep track of time frames and characters. In the all too short amount of time I have every day for one of my most favorite pastimes –reading — I now simply want to be entertained. I want to leave reality behind, push aside responsibilities, stop listening to the problems and despair in the world, and get a bit lost somewhere else.
I do still enjoy a variety of authors and types of stories, and for different reasons… For a good plot to sink my teeth into, I might pick up a Jeffrey Archer; to be transported to a lovely location, there’s Elin Hilderbrand; for great characters to get involved with I turn to Nora Roberts — or maybe her alter ego JD Robb for a little mystery and intrique. And of course, if I need a good laugh, there is always Janet Evanovich to fill my needs.
I will confess that at times I will pick up what I consider to be complete fluff — something that doesn’t need to be extremely well written, or have an amazing plot. It was during one of those “just entertain me” modes when I was introduced to the Shades of Grey trilogy. Yes, it is true, I read them. Yes, it is true, they were a guilty pleasure and I enjoyed them. Did I find them so amazingly outrageous and inflammatory that I needed to create a secret women’s reading group to dissect them over bottles of wine? No. Did they affect my marriage? No, it is fine on its own, thank you. Was there something about them that sucked me in to the “don’t want to put it down” stage? Well, yes. Did I talk about them with my friends? Yes.
And now I’m seeing more “copy-cat” stories coming out that follow the same lines as the Grey books. I’m reading one now, called Bared to You. Predictable characters, thin plot, and let me just say the very descriptive text is not about the lovely view out the window. And yet, it is drawing me in again.
It got me thinking about how this new trend seems to be an evolution of the old romance novels. Remember the old Harlequin novels with Fabio on the cover? Well, these books are like variations of those, gone hard core. They have taken “romance” to a different level and are certainly providing the women who are reading them with an escape from reality.
But then I began to wonder, will there have to be a line drawn soon as to where these books can be sold? You don’t see magazines like Penthouse and Playboy out on the regular racks at book stores. Remember the old days of video rental stores, where the adult/naughty tapes were only available in the back room? (Not that I ever went in there, mind you.) Will there come a time when these new novels will only be available in a back room at Barnes & Noble, open only to women over the age of 18? And what WILL be the line a book has to cross to be sold in a brown paper bag? I have to admit, when I was ready to buy the Grey trilogy, I ordered them from Amazon so I wouldn’t have to ask where they were at the book store – and so they could arrive to my house in an unlabeled brown box. And yet I’ve seen them available at Costco and Walmart. These are books that I wouldn’t want my 12 year old son to pick up and start browsing.
The writer in me of course also thought that if this new wave of book type is that popular, it would be fairly easy to crank out a couple. Put together a couple of hot characters, add a bit of minor plot that has to do with one or both of them being damaged from a past experience, and throw in huge helpings of smut & steam. Seems like a fairly simple format that works. But then I realized I’m not so sure I’d be comfortable promoting my new book – not exactly the way to “make Daddy proud.” Or for that matter, explain it to my son. “So, what does you mom do for a living?” “Oh, she writes naughty books.”
No, instead, I will let other authors provide this entertainment that I can indulge in from time to time. And after reading one, I will take a long shower and move on to a different style of escapism for awhile.
After all, variety is the spice of life. Even in fantasy world.