Letters to the Editor – The New York Times

Letters to the Editor – The New York Times

Not Romantic

To the Editor:

In “In the Mood for Love: A Roundup of the Season’s Romance” (Oct. 1), Robert Gottlieb called the genre “harmless.” Of all his false, ridiculous statements, this was perhaps the worst. Was Maria Edgeworth’s 1801 “Belinda” harmless? Her father didn’t think so, or else he wouldn’t have insisted that future editions eliminate the interracial marriage between an African servant and an English farm girl. Was Christine Monson’s “Stormfire,” one of the many rape-filled romances of the 1980s, harmless? How about Alisha Rai’s heroine in “Hate to Want You,” and her insistence on treating herself as well as she tries to treat others?

For better and sometimes worse, romance novels have shaped our attitudes toward race, gender and injustices to both. Popular culture has a way of helping to sweep in societal change — a concept Gottlieb is no doubt aware of, given his storied career. As a romance writer myself I hope to be a part of that change. I hope to harm those constructs we would all do well to smash.

ELIZABETH BRIGHT
WASHINGTON

To the Editor:

I felt too sullied and saddened to get through Robert Gottlieb’s roundup of this season’s romance novels. I felt bad that he lost so many precious brain cells of his own going through so many multiple formulaic pages of clichéd fantasy. There should be warning labels on such books. I can only assume that he chose to read such a large volume, not that you had assigned them, or I would accuse you of sadism. Poor Robert, even “avid readers” should never allow themselves to eat so much junk food, especially in one sitting. It can’t be healthy!

HARVEY WALDMAN
NEW YORK

To the Editor:

As a multi-published author and lifelong reader of romance books, I found the tone of Robert Gottlieb’s roundup of the genre to be disrespectful, jarring and at times downright condescending. Not only is the romance novel industry a multi billion-dollar genre that continues to keep publishing solvent regardless of external influence, politics or social changes, romance is the only fundamentally feminist genre on the market, and attacking or undermining the importance of new releases by established and emerging authors is, at its core, sexist.

Romance is up against a lot. Due to its very nature as a women’s genre, it faces hyper-scrutiny, condemnation and patronizing terms, such as trashy books or mommy porn. In reality, romance is about women seeking professional, emotional and physical completion, sometimes sexually, sometimes not. With a genre as vast and far-reaching as romance, there is something for everyone.

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