Two weeks ago while I was casually browsing on the internet, I chanced upon an interesting exchange of perspectives among certified writers taking place on FB as they touched on the subject of passion in prose. Initially, the conversation was set in motion by a lady writer who had just finished watching “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” based on the period novel by John Fowles that tells of a story of passionate love verging on fragile intensity and more than negligible risk. Sarah, the main character is a “fallen” woman who’s unfit for love, yet this French lieutenant guy blindly falls for her. So the questions that pervaded principally in the discussion were: Are dysfunction and hindrances elemental in generating powerful feelings in romantic fiction? Must the strength of passion be tested through the battle against the barrier? And is there really such a thrill in the forbidden-ness of consummated sex? When we live in a world devoid of forbidden stuff like we do now, we try to find what’s missing in our lives through literature and similar other forms of escapism. It could be true then that a substantial impediment is crucial for passion to last or even exist, and the struggle to overcome that barrier is elemental to the success of a love story told through the pages. Hearts must be ready to bleed. That much can be true for the majority of hopeless romantics of this world.
Well, the FB sort-of debate flowed and took some twists and turns until it touched on a colossal issue of the modern writer’s dilemma. Each writer then began sharing his/her valuable insight in what they deliberated to be the contrast between romantic literature of the past and romantic literature of the present. There’s this growing but discomforting recognition that readers of today swoon for passion represented by the likes of “Twilight,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” and “The Notebook” despite their obvious flaws. Ruffled by the fact that it just might go on to become the wave of the future, prospects for quality serious prose look dismal considering present literature continues to be awash with vampire love triangles, ridiculous plotlines, absurd settings and sundry other pieces of cheesy romantic narrative. Romance fiction in the tradition of “Wuthering Heights” and “Pride & Prejudice” doesn’t seem to carry weight as it used to. Today’s genre of prose has dishearteningly upended the traditional classics in the book market. A concern these writers share is that they may also have to kowtow to the demands of the market trend somehow and do away with their desire for original creativity in their written art.
Is “bad fiction” really here to stay? As the same flamboyance in cinema-making surges ahead, we may be resigned to the reality of the bastion of banality which ultimately blights on the integrity of “high literature” and so-called certified writers. The FB conversation went on to belabor on the writers’ objection to this moneymaking scheme practiced by fad writers to recycle the same plotlines, characters, settings, etc., expressing in unison their dissent for both the authors and the readers who indulge in said genre. People crave for passion in literature. True. Yet these days, people want to get it from nonsensical fantasy settings that also provide hindrances strong enough to make love challenging or forbidden (which bring us back to the point above). This emergence and success of vampire books, movies and TV shows inundated with tales of supposed ardor and true love, have they practically been ghosts of the real thing we found in Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, etc.?
One writer tried to neutralize the feeling of disdain by saying these fiction authors who cater to the current market might have been highly successful because they were able to explore passion that is meaningful and relevant in present contexts. It’s as though genuine passion cannot thrive anymore in this modern society because of numerous distractions around, that results to us readers being slightly desperate for out-of- this world passion to fall for just about anything.
Ok, so what’s my personal take on all this? In all the most important regards, I hope writers of any genre would continually be able to come up with literary books worthy of occupying places of honor on our shelves.
And frankly, I haven’t considered things much on their side of the equation because I’m not even a professional writer and I’ve no intention yet of dipping my toes on the pond of fiction writing. But speaking of passion, well..
The goal of love is rapture. There’s undeniably rapture in passion, and love without passion is like eating chocolate without sugar. That’s how it is for me because I’m simply a sucker for all things sweet.
No doubt even the most cerebral of women crawl on their knees in the name of love and passion. Do I go on to confirm that our species truly thrive on obstacles engineered by love and its variety of forbidden constitution?
It’s not something I’d like to answer right this moment so I may have to get back on this topic in another post.
But this I’ve got to ask for now. How did we women end up being vulnerable to such literary crap anyway? Female readers have always been the never-ending target market of what has been established as “Chick Lit” (that presently includes the genre fiction we’re submerged in). Literature of this kind definitely gives an erroneous touchstone for our romantic longings. I wish we have been trained to be more of inveterate thinkers like men which would make all these fabricated stuff about silly romantic fantasies and passion-defeats-all illusion unnecessary. We’d therefore find no urge at all to pine for a 600-year-old vampire, even if he’s as handsome as Robert Pattinson. Neither will we find perfect chemistry between Borat and Jessica Alba (creepy huh?), nor reason out that it’s ok for a woman to suffer for love as long as the man is a superhero like the ever-busy Superman, Spiderman on the go, or the elusive Batman.
Women have a choice. Books that encourage women to be stronger, more discerning and selective in matters of the heart are rare yet essentially precious. They are a must read for us delusional romantics who believe dysfunctional love just might be the real thing, in accordance to what’s been fed to us since we were young girls. I believe we do badly need such empowering books both for the benefit of young minds and for the reversal of all the crap that has accumulated in our not so young minds.
But then, I bet books of this ilk would unfortunately sell only 8 copies.