I just finished Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind. This is a much touted literary "masterpiece".
I will agree that technically it was beautiful. The prose, the language, the style was carefully and skillfully crafted. One could easily lose themselves in the beauty of the prose. However, I found that that seems to be what happened to the story. The story line was not compelling and seemed to play second fiddle to the prose--to the "crafting" of the words.
Maybe I'm just a simple person with simple tastes, but I have to find the storyline the number one draw to the book.
I was reading the remarks from a friend who attended a writer's conference and she remarked on how romance writing still isn't really accepted as "real" writing. I blame this on the transition that happens to people about middle school to high school where we start to put emphasis on "classic literature". In doing so we tend to suck the fun right out of reading.
In middle school and high school I remember the guilty pleasure of sneaking a Harlequin romance. They were fun to read. So were comic books. But these were looked down upon as not real reading by those who are in the position I hold now, a reading/ELA teacher. We read Animal Farm, The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, etc. in the seventh grade and I used to think that was an awesome thing.
It is in some respects. There is a certain body of literature that everyone should have a passing knowledge of and the three works above are among them. In the WIP I have going, which may turn out to be a YA novel, the protagonist is bemoaning her third trip to the land of Chaucer. Yes, we all need to have a passing acquaintance with The Canterbury Tales, but by focusing entirely on those kinds of works we are at deep risk of sucking the fun out of reading. I mean, come on, how many of you who have read Chaucer, enjoyed it? Not many. We may admire it, we may appreciate it, but enjoy it?
Classic works are a must. We need to know, understand and be familiar with great works of literature. But thank goodness for writers who know how to keep reading fun. I'd lost the fun in reading until I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to figure out what the hype was all about. I devoured it in a few hours and went back for more.
Yet still, it seemed that fun and adult literature were forever to be separated until I attended my first DragonCon (the SciFi-Fantasy-Horror convention in Atlanta). I saw a panel with Sherrilyn Kenyon-dressed in pigtails with bright red yarn fluffed through them and horns. (I had no idea at the time she was dressed like the demon Simi from her books.) I'd never heard of her before that day, but was drawn by the vampire-goth theme of the panel. She was hilarious and fun.
A check of my local library showed they had her novels and I, again, discovered the fun in reading. Now I embrace my romance reader side. It took longer for me to embrace the romance writer side of me. My first novel, Access Denied, was written without a clue on my part that it was a romance until one of my friends gave me a reality check. It had been declined by a couple of publishers when Courtney said, "Duh, you're sending it out wrong, you don't have a sci-fi novel on your hands, kiddo, you have a romance."
I was shocked. I'd written a romance? Yes I had. The story of James and Leah was definitely a romance. Not your typical one, he's a difficult kinda guy to warm up to, but it was definitely a romance.
I don't have aspirations as a writer to write the great American novel. Like Leah, who reminds me a great deal of Lizzy in The Rainmaker, my dreams are much more simple. I just want people to have fun.