the love story can be nothing but itself


Publishers are often seen as venal; desperate for sales, indifferent to art, puffing their fiction lists with substandard titles of proven mass appeal. And yet, it is not easy to sell books. A willingness to peddle repetitive rubbish isn’t enough; our vain, trash-loving, elitist souls also want to be fed; we need to feel that we are discerning readers. So the publishers must delicately exploit the middle ground between high and low. Elements of genre writing are often introduced to spice up the “literary” kind – Martin Amis does it in Night Train, Ian McEwan in Saturday, John Banville in The Book of Evidence – and some genres are given credence, their merits discussed. They are reclaimed for seriousness; seriousness is arguably the better for it. Yet one staple of genre fiction, the sentimental, soft-focus romance novel, remains apparently beyond rescue – it is too embarrassing, too silly, too feminine to be salvageable. The comic becomes the graphic novel, science fiction becomes dystopia, thrillers become political satires, but the love story can be nothing but itself.

more from the TLS here.