Reader, I'm Not Sure What Happened


Reese, Frankengirl, Mystic Gypsy, and all types like me, check out this plea from the BBC:

Are you an avid reader of romantic fiction? Has Mr Darcy made you leave your fiancé? Has Mr Rochester, Heathcliff or any other fictional hero changed your love life in a significant way? Does your partner want you to be more like these fictional male heroes?

Silverriver Productions are producing a series of three 60' programmes for the BBC about the history of the romantic novel. Presented by Daisy Goodwin, Reader, I Married Him! will examine the work of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Margaret Mitchell, Helen Fielding and Catherine Cookson amongst others, looking at how romantic novels have changed the female perception of the ideal man.

In the programmes we want to talk to real men and women whose love lives have been transformed by romantic fiction for better or for worse. We want to speak to the women who have never found their Mr Darcy, as well as the men who feel that they fall short of romantic literary ideals.

If you have an interesting story, please get in touch with Louisa MacInnes on 020 7580 2746 or with details of your experience and and some method of contacting you.


Holly! This is interesting. In romance fiction, there aren't many types of heroes that editors will accept. 90% are "alpha males" and the few books that that don't feature these arrogant pricks generally don't sell very well.

It's weird - I'm really involved in the whole romance world and, according to the stats, 50% of all mass market paperbacks sold are romance books. BUT - here's the deal - the ONLY people I know who read these books are other romance writers. When I go to the romance section in bookstores, I find it's a VERY lonley place (I'm ALWAYS the only one in there).

I can't, for the life of me, figure out who (aside from other romance writers) is actually reading these books!

I'll tell you one person who reads them: my mother. She loves them. And so did I, when I was in junior high and high school. I read Harlequin Romances, I read bodice rippers, I even read some sci-fi romance. I loved it.

But then I went to college and majored in English and I spend so much time reading that there are just times when I can't bear to look at a page of print--I call it "reader's block." As a result, I don't pick up escapist literature, even for fun--I'd rather watch a movie or something that isn't reading.

Hi Holly!
This is indeed interesting ;)
When people tell me not to get too attached to fictional heroes, and that I should "lower my standards",
I wonder, is it me who has to lower my standards, or should they raise their own?

"Has Mr Darcy made you leave your fiancé?"

Oh, that's too funny, put that way!

I do think "romance fiction" (and film) does shape how girls/women perceive men and relationships. There is fantasy-making on both sides, if we take a mere glance at those "dick-flicks."

Ah, but whenever I've said, pardon me, but will you kiss me like Cary Grant, that never went over well with the boys - ;)

mysticgypsy - I agree that setting a high standard is important, and I'll add that a good book often teaches us to look beyond appearances, surfaces and searcher deeper within ourselves and the other.

Hey Frankengirl--I KNOW romance novels and such have influenced the way I see relationships--if I find a spare two minutes in the next few days, I plan on writing to these people with some of my own stories about how Austen and the likes affected the way I imagined the story of my own falling in love.

"I KNOW romance novels and such have influenced the way I see relationships"

Yes - me, too! :) Do share a bit of your thoughts here, too! This subject fascinates me. I was addicted to “gothics” in my youth (which is why I often teasingly compare myself to the heroine in Northanger Abbey). In these “gothics’ - the same sort of brutish man was presented to me over and over again, as if all other men were weak, diluted water.

Austen, other the other hand, does present a wonderful array of men, and if I had a daughter, I would definitely fill her bookshelves with Austen's men.

Here's how thoroughly I believed in the power of good books to shape our understanding of love: in 1996, when I was mixed up with my evilest of exes, Adam, he was all wishy-washy and unwilling to do anything about the fact that we both really liked each other--yeah, he liked me, but I wasn't the "right" kind of woman. So I thought, "If I can just get him to UNDERSTAND how this works, he'll treat me right! I know: he needs to be exposed to Austen!" So I gave him my tapes of the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, thinking that if he watched that, he'd realize how thoroughly in love with me he was and ask me to marry him, just like Darcy.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

Hmm, I think I had my own evil Alex (though probably not quite as EVIL as yours)! They seem so upright, but they’re really uptight. Mine was our high school Valedictorian who was such a snooty snob that I had to hide my “gothics” from him. ;) He took too long to ask me to the Junior Prom that I accepted another offer! Ha!

But I suppose I believe novels shape our understanding of love and relationships mostly when we are young and impressionable...

But all men should definitely have a class in Austen (and Samuel Richardson, perhaps). Hmm, I wonder what men (in gross generalization, of course) would wish women to read for a better understanding...?

I was always told (blame the sources that put this idea into my head) that men don't study literature (anymore) and that Literature and the Arts are "female fields".
Reading works on Literature and philosophy, however, has showed me that men have indeed dominated these fields. In light of this, I wonder why it is that men shun away from taking literature classes these days ... (or do they?) Perhaps if they took more literature classes, they will not escape having to read Austen and Bronte and confronting not only how different (?!) they are from the heros in those novels, but also what they have to live up to.

But Frankengirl, as much as setting high standards can be a good thing, do they have a limit? How high can they be? When do we know when to lower them? Or should we at all?

Hi Mysticgypsy--

I can pretty much attest to the fact that there are generally more women than men in undergraduate literature courses, but more men than women holding jobs as tenured professors.

five years ago, when I taught a course on Austen, I had 19 female students and a grand total of one lone male student.

This semester I'm teaching a class on contemporary literary nonfiction and the enrollment is, for some reason, predominantly male--eleven men and seven women.

I'm also teaching a course on women's literature. Initial enrollment was 16 women and three men; when students realized they actually have to write decent papers to pass the class, enrollment dropped to 12 women and two men. That's a better ratio than 19 to one, but it's still not great. And it's nothing like the enrollment in the other class--I guess the men took the nonfiction class so they wouldn't get stuck reading stuff entirely by women.

Encouraging it ain't.

Why is that? I'd like to know..

Is it because of the subject matter? or the fact that Literautre does not seem "practical"?
Does this mean that there won't be any Wordworths and Coleridges anymore?

I can only offer guesses as to why more women than men major in English at the undergraduate level: perhaps it has to do with the fact that females show facility for language earlier than males; perhaps it's because it doesn't seem macho. If anyone has done a study with supported data on the topic, I haven't seen it.

But rest assured, during the time I spent at Iowa, there were PLENTY of twenty-something guys in the poetry workshop. I don't know if we'll have any more Wordsworths or Coleridges, but I feel safe asserting that we'll have many more poets in the vein of John Berryman and D.H. Lawrence, hard-drinking guys who like to write about the glories of sex and think the world should be wowed when they do so.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on February 23, 2006 12:54 PM.

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