Thursday, 27 September 2007

Radio Gaga and a birthday surprise...

I almost forgot! (top tip of the day: always make a note of promises you make when awash with champagne...) It's my turn to provide the present for the little pink dancing guy at the PHS! I decided to be practical-- after all, doing all that dancing, he's going to need a lot of music, so I'm sending him a pink i-pod. I'm going to download some tunes by Pink onto it too...
Happy Birthday little pink heart!
Anyway, in other news, Radio 4's programme on A Hundred Years of Mills & Boon was rather a mixed bag, which I suppose was inevitable and understandable, given that it's aim was probably to present some sort of balance. The inclusion of the finger-wagging, lemon-sucking 'Director of Women's Studies' was yawn-makingly predictable, as were her opinions of the genre. They were so astonishingly misguided that thinking about where to start answering them makes me want to lie down under the desk with a bottle of cooking sherry. Luckily Trish Wylie is made of stronger, cleverer stuff, as are Kate Walker and Natasha Oakley. Go and check out what they have to say about it!


I don't really want to dwell on the negative because there were some really good parts of the programme-- the contribution by Richmond editors Tessa Shapcott, Jo Carr and Meg Sleighthome for a start, Sharon Kendrick's robust dismissal of some tired old cliches, and some of the details about the history of the company (like the fact PG Wodehouse used to write for them!) were all great. So it's silly to get so disproportionately irritated by Celia Brayfield's (herself a writer of women's fiction) contribution which was breath-takingly spiteful to readers-- many of whom I suspect cross over between Mills & Boon and her books. Her considered opinion is that HMB books are written in 'tired' and 'hackneyed language', and that the editors have to go through manuscripts removing the cliches; 'But you can always see the holes where they've cut them out.'

Gosh.

Always, eh Celia?

She must read a lot of them to have noticed that. Which is odd considering she then went on to say that they're 'the lowest common denominator of reading, for people who can only just about read.' It makes you wonder why she wastes her oh-so-valuable time on them. And yet she must because, I mean, nobody would be stupid enough to judge and publicly denounce something they hadn't read would they?

(Celia also calls them 'mediocre'. I bet she'd give her eye teeth for some of Penny Jordan's 'mediocre' sales. 84 million books worldwide. Ouch. That must bite.)

Thankfully Fay Weldon came along just in the nick of time and hit the nail on the head (what a shame Celia Brayfield wasn't standing in the way). Her comment 'I will fight to the death for readers to read what they want' reminded me of Virginia Woolf''s argument in 'A Room of One's Own' in which she denounces exactly Celia Brayfield's obnoxious brand of literary snobbishness

This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women....
So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair on the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve is the most abject treachery...

All in all the programme delivered few surprises, but there was one notable one. Julian Boon's voice. Mmmm... deep, mellow, delicious, and oddly out of place at 11.30 in the morning. I wonder if the powers that be would agree to him doing the 'Book at Bedtime' slot... reading a Mills & Boon, of course....

4 comments:

Jeanne said...

So glad to see you're feeling better, India.

Why is it women's fiction always gets blasted? The Bronte sisters had it rough, struggling under male pseudonyms to get published and earning mere peanuts; Jane Austen in her day enjoyed no where near the renown she does today; and, of course, there's George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley...

Today we have readers, writers, editors and critics (male and female alike) denouncing popular genres such as romance and so-called chick lit. What gives? Are they writhing in jealousy? Ravenous with ill will?

Donna Alward said...

India - you ROCK. I love your sense of humour. I'm still laughing.

India said...

Jeanne, I watched 'Becoming Jane' this weekend (the movie based on the life-- or a slice of it-- of Jane Austen) and there was a bit in it where she meets Mrs Radcliffe (author of The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian) and they bemoan the stigma of writing romance. At that time it meant exclusion from polite society-- at least we only have to cope with the odd snipey remark!

Donna-- the feeling's entirely mutual!!

Jeanne said...

You're right, India. I'll have to watch for that movie. Thanks.