Not Guilty. Only A Little Embarrassing.

Hello, my name is Irina and I don’t have any guilty reading pleasures. That’s right, I have never felt guilty about any book I’ve read. I have, however, felt a little embarrassed about some of the books I like to read and, to be totally honest, reread.

I really don’t see why anyone should feel guilty about reading a certain genre or author. Seriously, why? When you have a guilty eating pleasure it’s because that food is bad for you, right? But books (and by “books” I mean strictly fiction. it’s important.), even the worst among them, can hardly be bad for you in the same way. At best, when you read crappy books, you’d realize they are crappy and that’s part of cultivating a taste. At worst, you’d simply enjoy reading crappy books. So what?

Here’s my personal favorite literary crap and I know it is crap because that’s what they do at university when you major in linguistics and literature: teach you to make a difference between good and bad writing. I’m free to enjoy or deplore both kinds, though, and I do.

So, let’s start with all tacky romance as long as it has sex in it. The first time I got my hands on an Harlequin romance I was in high school. A friend’s mother had an extensive collection. Since then I’ve read (and, yes, reread) a few, all from the “Passion” series. I tried a couple of the “Romance” series but they were too boring — 100 pages of wooing and flirting and suggestive body language, and it all ends with just a kiss? Please.

Now, tacky as these little books may be, they can be very educational in that they clearly tell you how not to write. Have you actually seen some of the sex scenes in these novels? They range from hilarious to vicariously embarrassing but in either case they are a great illustration of what not to do under any circumstances. So that’s why I keep my little collection–they’re fun and they’re useful. Guilty? No way. I also own one Danielle Steel. The lady has style.

Next is an author, Jackie Collins. I think I might have started to outgrow her judging by the fact I was utterly bored by the last of her books I read but I do own a few and used to genuinely enjoy them. Why is this crap? Because of all these perfect but so stupid characters with a Secret Pain Inside and the happy endings. Yet Collins has a style I find enjoyable: she’s witty and she’s snarky, and, well, her books are fun.

Twilight. I’ve read each of the four books more than once. More than five times, too. Part of me tells me I should probably be ashamed of this but since most of the books I’ve read over the past 20 years I’ve read more than once I don’t really see why I should be ashamed.

I have a friend, a beautiful, smart, independent woman, the kind little girls want to be like, and she cannot fathom why Twilight made the splash it did. “Because there are so many of us, former and current Bella Swans, out there,” I told her. I still think this is the main reason for Twilight’s success. My friend, needless to say, had never had any problems with shyness and insecurity at school. She could not relate. I could and I still do. And so do millions of women around the world. It’s as simple as that.

But the writing was so bad, critics used to say a few years ago at the height of the mania. Really? Well, I hope they’ve read the 50 Shades nightmare. Quality of writing is relative, after all, and there is hardly a better proof of this than Twilight vs 50 Shades of unbelievable crap. Yep, I read all three of them and no, I don’t feel guilty about it. I actually felt extremely good about myself as an author after I read that. I tell you, there’s always a silver lining.

Okay, so I’ve spent the last five minutes thinking about any other book or author I should feel guilty about reading but I can’t come up with anything. I guess that’s my supposedly guilty pleasure: tacky romance. It might have to do with my love for fairy tales though now that I read them to my daughter I find a lot of the classics horribly wrong, in some versions at least.

The Prince asking Sleeping Beauty’s father for her hand in marriage without consulting her first? Terrible. Her parents banning all spindles instead of just teaching her how to handle them? How stupid do you get? But I’ll stop here because the post-postmodern critique of classical tales is a whole other topic.

In any case, I think there are far worse things to read out there than tacky romance. Flat earth “proof” and radical religious propaganda are just a couple off the top of my head. I’ll stay with tacky romance.

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