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The Test of Time
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding which books will be read 100 years from now, check the
20th century bestseller database and see how many books and authors you recognize from the 1900 - 1909 period or from the following decades. Now I actually do recognize a handful of names from the very early period, but that is due to a personal interest in turn-of-the-century adventure fiction (several of these books contained good romances as well) not because those books are well remembered.

Though critically acclaim is not necessary a guarantee for a long shelf life either, as one can see if one checks the literary prizes of years past. The Pulitzer Prize didn't start until 1917 and didn't award novels until the following year, though they seem to have been relatively on the spot, as many of the early winners were famous names remembered and read today.

Or take the Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded since 1901. There are more obscure laureates in the early years than well-known names. For example, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year 1908 was actually a countryman of mine, one Rudolf Christoph Eucken. I must confess, I have never heard of Mr Eucken who was apparently a philosopher, even though he was born in Aurich, some two-hours drive from my home (if you've ever been to Aurich the idea that that city spawned a Nobel prize winner is incredibly funny), and spent most of his life in Göttingen, a city where I have family and which I know well. Yet I have never heard of this man and he was a Nobel Prize winner.

All of which goes to show that no one can predict what will last and what won't.[/quote]
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1352

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Popular opinions about books depend on availability of books. Availability of printed books depends on publishers keeping books in print and in stock (which they only do for a very small percentage of all books), or readers having access to UBS that are able to keep books in stock. Both of these sources tend to be very limiting for older books. Most UBS I am familiar with tend to cull older books since they simply don’t have physical space to carry all books forever. Even most libraries these days have to remove least-used books due to lack of space. If a reader can’t even find a copy of a book, they can’t form any opinion about it.
For contrasting examples: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome has, IIRC, been continuously in print since it was first published in Victorian times. The F&SF of James H. Schmitz, an author any fan of F&SF should know, was out of print for years or decades until Baen issued a set of collections this decade, so a generation of readers was unlikely to know his work.
The Internet and ebooks have the potential to drastically change the availability of books. If the Internet remains open and doesn’t get constrained by repressive trends, then Project Gutenberg, Google’s big book scanning project and other open library efforts will make an increasing amount of out-of-copyright material available. If ebooks vendors can get their acts together and resolve their format wars and eliminate the problems inherent in the many DRM schemes so that any ebook can be read on any reader, then a huge and growing amount of in-copyright material will be available. Both of those trends will make it easier for readers willing to read electronic formats to try many more books.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You do have a point there.

Regarding those early 20th century bestsellers, when I developed an interest in turn-of-the-century adventure fiction, I had to search through several UBS in different countries to acquire some of those books (that was in the pre Abebooks days). Some of these books contain lovely romances which would appeal to modern romance readers. Yet how many romance readers do not know of those books and do not know how to find them, even if they do.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1463
Location: America

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cora wrote:
You do have a point there.

Regarding those early 20th century bestsellers, when I developed an interest in turn-of-the-century adventure fiction, I had to search through several UBS in different countries to acquire some of those books (that was in the pre Abebooks days). Some of these books contain lovely romances which would appeal to modern romance readers. Yet how many romance readers do not know of those books and do not know how to find them, even if they do.


Who have you read? I've read a few from Project Gutenberg and found them just as readable and enjoyable as todays fiction.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something just occurred to me:

Do you think Romances would "stand the test of time" better if they had less sex in them--or at least less graphically written (purple prose or otherwise) sex scenes?

I was just thinking that I'd be more likely to share Romances with my children, my friends and my students if I weren't worried about "shocking" them with sex scenes. Laughing So maybe sex is a factor in whether or not something gets "passed on" to the next generation?
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msaggie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 667

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
...Do you think Romances would "stand the test of time" better if they had less sex in them--or at least less graphically written (purple prose or otherwise) sex scenes?

I was just thinking that I'd be more likely to share Romances with my children, my friends and my students if I weren't worried about "shocking" them with sex scenes. Laughing So maybe sex is a factor in whether or not something gets "passed on" to the next generation?
Good question - DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover is one book which I can think of that has sex scenes and it's still a classic today. I haven't read it in a very long time, so I can't remember if our current romances are more graphic than Lady Chatterley's Lover.

I think (a) the quality of the story, (b) the continuity of availability in print (or e-book) and (c) overall reader demand would determine which romances survive to the next century. A clue would be what romances have been reprinted (with gorgeous new covers) in last 10-20 years - Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and the perennial Georgette Heyer come to mind. The presence of e-versions of romances (and books in general) nowadays may make stories much more available than previously.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1127
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
Cora wrote:
You do have a point there.

Regarding those early 20th century bestsellers, when I developed an interest in turn-of-the-century adventure fiction, I had to search through several UBS in different countries to acquire some of those books (that was in the pre Abebooks days). Some of these books contain lovely romances which would appeal to modern romance readers. Yet how many romance readers do not know of those books and do not know how to find them, even if they do.


Who have you read? I've read a few from Project Gutenberg and found them just as readable and enjoyable as todays fiction.


To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston, The Lone Wolf by Joseph Louis Vance, Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson (no HEA), Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, Beverly of Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon, Boston Blackie by H.K. Fly/Jack Boyle, The Wide Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherell a.k.a. Susan Warner plus several of romantic adventure novels by Henry Rider Haggard, Anthony Hope, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the original Zorro novel etc... which have achieved classic status.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1463
Location: America

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

msaggie wrote:
Good question - DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover is one book which I can think of that has sex scenes and it's still a classic today. I haven't read it in a very long time, so I can't remember if our current romances are more graphic than Lady Chatterley's Lover.

I think (a) the quality of the story, (b) the continuity of availability in print (or e-book) and (c) overall reader demand would determine which romances survive to the next century. A clue would be what romances have been reprinted (with gorgeous new covers) in last 10-20 years - Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and the perennial Georgette Heyer come to mind. The presence of e-versions of romances (and books in general) nowadays may make stories much more available than previously.


I think romance novels could become "classics" if they had a presence in academia. There has been a rise in romance novel studies, but we also haven't reached a point where we can easily pick out the classics without people feeling slighted or overlooked, if not the fact that a study of the romance genre could run the risk of being just as eurocentric as the study of the "classics."
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msaggie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 667

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 6:45 am    Post subject: Books into movies? Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
I think romance novels could become "classics" if they had a presence in academia. There has been a rise in romance novel studies, but we also haven't reached a point where we can easily pick out the classics without people feeling slighted or overlooked, if not the fact that a study of the romance genre could run the risk of being just as eurocentric as the study of the "classics."
I just wondered as well if a romance novel is made into a film, perhaps it endures longer - as the story is told in two mediums (?media). If not for the movies, I would never have read Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Jim Harrison's Legneds of the Fall, Normal MacLean's A River Runs through it, Karen Blixen's Out of Africa, EM Forster's Room with a View, etc. Think of how Gone with the Wind has endured (although I think that one's in its own category as it's also a great tale about the Civil War). On the other hand, I don't think many people read Rafael Sabatini nowadays (his books Scaramouch, Captain Blood, etc were made into swashbuckling movies) - so perhaps it's also because they don't "have a presence in academia" as you put it. I suppose to stand the test of time, there is more than one element which is required - not all that we have discussed, but perhaps at least 2 or 3 of the various points we made.
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RichMissTallant



Joined: 06 Jun 2008
Posts: 148
Location: Washington, DC

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I think romance novels could become "classics" if they had a presence in academia.


That reminds me - I'm a cashier in my university's student stores, and a girl bought a copy of Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase at my register. She looked a little embarrassed to be buying it (the cover really doesn't do the novel justice!), but she said she was buying it for an English class (some sort of fiction course, I think?) that she was taking that semester. I told her it's a fabulous book and she'd love it and to ignore the strange cover. She looked more relieved after that. I thought that was really strange, as I've never heard of a romance novel assigned for an English course before...!

Of course, she could've been totally making it up and just buying it for herself. I'm gullible like that. But it was with a pile of lots of other paperback novels, so I believed her.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RichMissTallant wrote:
Quote:
I think romance novels could become "classics" if they had a presence in academia.


That reminds me - I'm a cashier in my university's student stores, and a girl bought a copy of Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase at my register. She looked a little embarrassed to be buying it (the cover really doesn't do the novel justice!), but she said she was buying it for an English class (some sort of fiction course, I think?) that she was taking that semester.


I once enrolled for a course on genre: we looked at Sonnets, Ballads, Romance, Detective Fiction, and Gothic Fiction. One objective of the paper was to trace the conventions of genre through the centuries and even across genre boundaries.

So we read modern texts as well as "classic" ones: Tom Stoppard's Real Inspector Hound (an example of the "English detective story"), James Ellroy's LA Confidential (an example of the "American detective story") and Seamus Deane's Reading in the Dark (Contemporary Literature with elements of Romance, Detective Fiction and Gothic Fiction working together in the story). The assigned Romance was Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Rolling Eyes I guess my professors couldn't think of any modern Romance worth reading.
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Elizabeth Rolls



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1066
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The assigned Romance was Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Rolling Eyes I guess my professors couldn't think of any modern Romance worth reading.


Possibly because they hadn't bothered to read any? It's a vicious circle in many ways, and I think that a great deal of the time they see what they expect to see. They expect romance to be rubbish, therefore it is. Also I do wonder just how many books some of these people really read and just let themselves enjoy. Just for pleasure. Years ago I mentioned to a friend that I'd recently read A.S. Byatt's Possession and enjoyed it. I got a complete diatribe, complete with political deconstruction about why I shouldn't have enjoyed it, and why it should not have been within cooee of the shortlist, let alone won the Booker Prize. Rolling Eyes One of her complaints was that it was written to appeal to the masses . . .

There does seem to be an attitude of "If lots of people like it, then it must be bad." Of course popularity is no guarantee of quality, but neither is it a measure of poor quality. What is guaranteed is that anyone with that particular attitude is reading, or listening to music, or looking at art merely to impress others, not for pleasure.
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Laura V



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 302
Location: UK

PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RichMissTallant wrote:
Quote:
I think romance novels could become "classics" if they had a presence in academia.


That reminds me - I'm a cashier in my university's student stores, and a girl bought a copy of Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase at my register. She looked a little embarrassed to be buying it [...] but she said she was buying it for an English class (some sort of fiction course, I think?) that she was taking that semester. [...] I thought that was really strange, as I've never heard of a romance novel assigned for an English course before...!

Of course, she could've been totally making it up and just buying it for herself. I'm gullible like that. But it was with a pile of lots of other paperback novels, so I believed her.


Sarah Frantz has been teaching romance at Fayetteville State University this year. She did plan to teach Lord of Scoundrels, but she had to jiggle the syllabus around a little.

Eric Selinger's been teaching romance at DePaul University for quite a while now. A couple of the syllabi are here.

I have a feeling there was someone else teaching a course just about romances, but I can't remember his name. And the occasional romance may well pop up as part of the required reading for other courses, e.g. Woodiwiss is on the syllabus of a course about literature and sexualities and this syllabus looking mainly at precursors of the modern romance genre. My quick search also turned up a course on "the romance" in which
Quote:
We will initiate our study of the role of the romance with Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s brilliant, satirical novel of a young woman who confuses romantic fiction with reality. We will then read three canonical novels credited with providing narrative templates for contemporary romances (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights), as well as twentieth-century revisions of these works. Along the way, students will investigate the marketing and promotion of women’s genre fiction, including the Harlequin and “chick lit.”
So some romances are definitely making their way onto university syllabi.
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