I spent an hour of my life listening to the latest episode of On Point, an NPR show I’d never heard of before. I’m sure someone will invariably write a thoughtful and well-reasoned critique of the podcast, but it won’t be me because the romance blogosphere needs another article about how the general public doesn’t understand the genre like it needs a hole in the head. But I do have thoughts, which I present in a handy list format.
- One of the guests was Wendy the Super Librarian, whose blog I’ve read for years and whose speaking voice matches my mental picture of what it would sound like. So, um, go Wendy?
- I’ve never read anything by Angela Knight, but on the strength of that interview, I need to fix that. Holy wow, she’s a firecracker. Or maybe it’s just that any middle-aged Southern lady comes off that way when she talks. Either way, she was passionate and very well-reasoned and articulate.
- I started drinking the first time Tom Ashbrook mentioned The Twilight Fanfic That Shall Not Be Named. I know, I know, it’s revolutionized the genre. But blargh, we hates that book.
- I loved Wendy’s statement that a good library has something in it that will offend everybody. That is so very on point. (Ha, did you see what I did there?)
- Angela talked a lot about how romances are all about the girl power. I might have liked it if she hadn’t taken a dig at feminists, but I cannot have everything I want.
- The first half of the podcast was a nuanced and interesting conversation, with a lot of interesting points made about the genre. Then it was like the powers at NPR said to themselves, “Wait! I know what element this show is lacking! We need a white dude from the literary scene to give his very valuable and much-needed thoughts on yaoi.” So they found one. I’m so glad they did. My poor lady brain was trying to figure out what to think and it has such a huge problem forming its own opinions, so thank God there was a man there, finally.
- Speaking of men, a caller gave the lonely cry of the poor oppressed male romance reader and suggested romance writers should market books toward men. All these books with their lady feelings won’t possibly be considered legitimate and worthwhile until that happens, the billions of dollars readers spend notwithstanding. And we wouldn’t want the men to be left out, because it’s not like there are whole genres heavily marketed to them already.
- Angela Knight said that if it weren’t for romance readers, those white dudes in the literary elite couldn’t sustain the publishing market share by themselves. She got really passionate about that, too. I raised a fist in solidarity.
- Someone brought up the “Well, aren’t romance novels formulaic?” question. I took another drink, but had to give it to Angela and Wendy for both pointing out that (1) every genre has a formula, (2) The book is about the journey rather than the destination, and (3) If you are writing paint-by-numbers crap that is entirely predictable, you are doing it wrong.
- Harlequins and bodice rippers got brought up. So did the stupidity of romance titles. I have often ranted at length about the stupidity of romance titles, so I feel weird that when that bit happened near the end of the podcast, I was like, “This has nothing to do with anything! If you don’t have anything substantive to ask, just stop right now!”
- Wendy made predictions for the future. Yep, erotic romance and small-town contemporaries are where it’s at. Personally, I think there should be more books that combine the two.
For a puff piece about romance, this wasn’t the worst. I thought the conversation was, for the most part, lively and interesting, and both Angela and Wendy were class acts that did not once tell Tom Ashbrook he was being smug and condescending. That said, there was something painful about hearing said smug condescension for an hour that made the whole experience more rage-making than it ought to have been.
I’ll be curious to read other people’s takes on that show.