Sunday, May 1, 2011
I write trash and mighty proud of it!
“Trashy novels", otherwise described as “light” or “low-brow” fiction, have been condemned publicly, but enjoyed privately even by their most severe judges. Since I have become aware of the trashiness in my own writing, and having faced it and embraced it, I feel that the genre deserves an acquittal. So let´s hear it for the good old trash novels!
I constantly hear literary critics bemoaning the lack of fine English prose on the market. Most writers want to be popular and rich, rather than immortal; therefore they strive to reach a massive market. Yet, you still find some exceptional scribblers in commercial fiction who can write circles around the masters and you find someone like Ian McEwan who writes in circles. I tend to get lost in the perfection of his artistic prose (Sorry, Mr. McEwan, but certainly you don´t need more accolades.)
It is a fact that current bestseller lists in America seldom contain high-brow literature, but many genre authors or thriller writers, such as the omnipresent Dan Brown and Dean Koontz, have acquired the fame that once belonged to dead white poets. And in a genre-era, making up thrillers, epic fantasy or vampire sagas is seen as a respectable career. Even erotica is getting some recognition.
With age, plenty of books have obtained the title of high-brow literature. Most nineteenth-century novels were sold as little more than pulp fiction to be serialized in newspapers and magazines. Neither Balzac, while scribbling in a dingy Paris loft, nor Dickens, peddling his stories to London papers, could have ever imagined they would, some day, be revered as literary saints.
Novelists who in their day wrote just “for the heck of it” like Louis L’Amour, Ian Fleming, Zane Grey, Ira Levin and Stephen King, are now regarded as icons in their fields. Gone with the Wind has grown beyond the label of romantic fiction. It is considered a segment of Civil War narrative, a great piece of historical writing, and a fine example of regional literature.
Maybe in a hundred years or so, Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz and other symbols of the 80s and 90s romantic trash will be revisited and revalued. I have my own list of bestselling twentieth- century writers who need some reappraisal: Leon Uris, Harold Robbins, and my beloved Jacqueline Susann who wrote Hollywood fables with sad endings and strong morals.
Obviously selling well and having a large following cold make a writer famous or infamous, but doesn’t elevate his/her work into “art”, and yet most of us would be contented to be published, make a living out of our craft, and bond with kind readers who enjoy what we have to say. We know that life can be overwhelming; sometimes we need to escape to some fantasy land or to have a good time via light and comforting reading. Is that so wrong?
The problem with the so-called trashy novels boils down to mere stereotyping and prejudice. The heirs of 19th century dime-novels are charged with being poorly written, containing sensationalistic material, being overly light or unrealistic. Far worse, they are accused of handing out immoral messages that force the reader to yearn for the wrong objectives or develop false romantic expectations.
It´s a harsh and trivial judgment since even the most edifying books, even the Holy Bible, could be misinterpreted according to the readers’ degree of neurosis, immaturity or impressionability. Blaming books for the sad state of things is a feeble cop out. To say that the Harry Potter series promotes witchcraft or Twilight endorses necrophilia just means that either the readers or the critics are suffering from a serious problem, they can´t differentiate between fantasy and reality.
Trashy novels are not be literary masterpieces, but they serve a purpose therefore deserve some respect. Don´t you agree? Time to confess guilty pleasures. Share with us your favorite trashy novels and why you love them.