[LMB] OT: Jane Eyre

Corrina Lavitt corrinal at cox.net
Thu, 20 Nov 2003 22:42:26 -0500

> On the other hand, "Reader, I married him" has to be one of the
> stupidest decisions in all of literature.
> In a nutshell: where Austen or Fielding or Sterne (or...) nudge the
> reader into a critical approach to all the characters, including the
> viewpoint character by continually inviting the reader to pass judgment
> and by keeping the authorial - versus - narratorial tensions alive,
> Bronte encourages the reader to identify with the narrator without
> judging, rather than maintaining a degree of detachment.
> It is this aspect of _Jane Eyre_, the "directed" reader experience,
> which makes it Harlequin-like, in contrast to the classical novel.

Yes, that it does have in common with HQ categories, encouraging readers to
identify with the narrator. Books written in first person do the same.

Why is this self-indulgent, however?

Granted, it is a *different* reader experience and no doubt one that many
readers would not enjoy or actively dislike. I am certainly not arguing that
anyone has to like romance novels.

But art, real art, to me is about getting to the truth of the human
experience--of conveying *something* about that truth to the person
reading/seeing/experiencing that art.

The sheer awful trapped, sick feeling of Ekaterin towards Tien as he has sex
with her that gets to the heart of how people can lose themselves; the pain
of parting between Aral and Cordelia in "Shards" when they never get to say
a proper good-bye that reaches those who've been parted from loved ones too
soon; the mixture of love/anger/respect/awe between Aral and Miles at the
end of WA, which says much about the nature of fathers & sons.

And yet, there would be some who wouldn't accept or even *get* those truths
because of the setting, because they're wrapped in science fiction. Some
people prefer finding their truth in mysteries--Philip Marlowe's world-weary
yet still noble efforts which echoed the truth of the ambivalent feelings of
Americans in that time period; the corrupting effects of power shown so
brilliantly in Macbeth; or the sheer fascination of humankind for new
experiences, exposed so well in "Star Trek."

Romances have their moments of truth underneath their trappings as well.
There's a Harlequin book I have that starts with the wife asking the husband
for a divorce--and then flashes back to how their marriage got to that
point. For those who've had a long-term relationship, that book (Donovan's
Promise by Dallas Schulze) is full of truths about how two people continue
to be in love after so many years together.

Some would reject Lois' books because of the setting, some Shakespeare
because of the archaic language, some romance out of the notion that it's
self-indulgent, some mystery because they don't like killing, some literary
fiction because it doesn't have emotional intensity.

I've learned over the years to ignore genre classificiations (which are
mainly based on marketing decisions in any case) and look for those books,
in any genre, that will give me those moments of truth.