Hmmmmm, as a commercial fiction author something about that overhear rubbed me the wrong way. A patient was reading a book and had been asked by the check-in person what it was about.
But that’s not what it’s about, I wanted to tell her; That’s just society’s hierarchical placement of Genre fiction. Somehow I think she may have moved to the far side of the room from me though, so I kept quiet.
I, for one, think all books have more value than to be presented as ‘fluff’. The FreeDictionary defines fluff as:Something having a very light, soft, or frothy consistency or appearance.
It’s true… romance books often take a light, meaning either gentle or humorous, approach to emotional topics. And certainly there are many descriptions of soft things in them; soft fabric, soft spots, soft breasts. And frothy sounds so delicious I would actually like for my books to be described using that term. So, taken apart, the word fluff isn’t entirely out of place.
It is the idea that fluff is of so little importance that she didn’t even want to describe the storyline that bothers me. Isn’t love the most important thing in the world? And isn’t it beautiful when it is soft and gentle (or better yet, frothy).
This debate is interesting in that it comes on the heels of a few articles lately debating the hierarchical difference between Genre and Literary Fiction. Lev Grossman has discussed it in far greater detail than I have room for here (see Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre Fiction Is Disruptive Technology). But one idea which stood out for me in his article was this –
“There’s more than escapism going on here. Why do we seek out these hard places for our fantasy vacations? Because on some level, we recognize and claim those disasters as our own. We seek out hard places precisely because our lives are hard. When you read genre fiction, you leave behind the problems of reality — but only to re-encounter those problems in transfigured form, in an unfamiliar guise, one that helps you understand them
more completely, and feel them more deeply. Genre fiction isn’t just generic pap. You don’t read it to escape your problems, you read it to find a new way to come to terms with them.”
It reminded me of another great article I read recently describing why we cry: Why We Cry: The Fascinating Psychology of Emotional Release. The very idea of escapism takes us to a place where it is safe to explore our
own feelings about our life issues like fear or rejection or love or isolation. When we can’t find that ‘safe’ place in our own daily world perhaps we look to books for it.
After all, the best definition of fluff takes us directly there… A covering of soft feathers, like down. To me that sounds like the perfect haven for emotional release.