Friday, September 07, 2007

Thanks to the Romance Novel

My favourite genre of fiction is romance - contemporary, historical, 'paranormal'.....doesn't matter, I love them all. I've been reading romances for nearly 10 years now and the attraction still hasn't waned. Some might snidely & cynically dismiss it to getting cheap thrills, but no, that's not it. I'm basically a sentimental, romantic fool at heart, forced to adopt a practical facade to survive this world. So in those moments when there's no one to be practical for, I like to indulge the fool.

Giving in to the "practical" requests of some, I have, on occasion, tried to "elevate" my reading preferences. I once forced myself to read a V. S. Naipaul - a book so unmemorable that I have forgotten its name. Other brushes with "literature" (namely, Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The House of Seven Gables' and Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' and 'The Scapegoat' ) were not so bad. I wouldn't rave about these books, because at the end, I was left oddly unsettled, melancholy even. Then again, to be great, art should evoke some emotion in the recipient, even if the emotion is less than positive.

Therein, I suppose, lies one of the reasons I continue to stand by romance novels. Who couldn't help but feel positive after a happy ending? But why I am truly thankful to romance novels, is for all the interesting snippets of information I've gained over the years: food habits, social practices, arts, languages, geographical & historical facts......worlds now and past have been opened for me.

However, what led to this post is something I read last night in a historical romance. One of the characters quoted a couplet that quite literally, made my heart jolt.

"All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good.
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, 'Whatever is, is right.'"

The source? Essay on Man (Epistle 1) by Alexander Pope. I would never have read Pope's work just based on the fact that he's one of the greats (in fact, I once began reading Rape of the Lock, but didn't feel compelled to continue), but this, this was just divine and I had to read it all. So, my sincere thanks to Martine Berne (author of the historical romance) for including these lines, and to that supreme, unseen force that directed me to this book.