I write novels that are meant to entertain.
There. I said it.
Actually, I’ve said something similar before in my post about comedies versus tragedies and their perceived merits in the literary world, and this entry is tangentially related. As part of researching various book markets, I read a lot of reviews on Amazon and BN, and I’ve noticed something that I find odd: many reviewers of entertainment-type novels feel the need to state that a particular book is meant for entertainment and then they write as if they feel guilty for liking it. They might write something like, “This book wasn’t a great literary work and was really just brain candy, but it totally sucked me in.”
Why do people feel compelled to write that? I’ve wondered about this, and here’s what I’ve come up with. Ever since high school, readers have been told what books are of literary value and which ones are the brain candy, and we are praised for liking Herman Melville (I never managed to finish Moby Dick), but frowned upon for also liking Agatha Christie or Nora Roberts. We wave our weighty tomes around in public, but hide the romance novels. We’ve started seeing literature as the equivalent of bran flakes, as Chris Baty says. We feel that we should only be reading books that have been deemed “good for us.”
Well, I contend that entertainment novels are also of value. Allow me to deviate a bit here. What do you spend your money on? You spend money on food, your house or apartment, your clothing (unless you’re a nudist), and entertainment. Now, maybe entertainment is not a life-or-death necessity, but the very fact that so much of our budgets and time are comprised of entertainment–vacations, TV, movies, video games, outings, books–then that must expose a basic human compulsion to relax, have fun, and enjoy life without worrying all the time about the stresses and trials we face daily.
All novelists–with varying degrees of success, I admit–are tackling an enormous job when they put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). They are trying to create a world, evoke emotions, and take readers on a journey, and that is not an easy task. Moby Dick may be read (or at least the first line anyway) by students the world over, but even the “brain candy” can provide something of value: hours of pleasure, escape, and even emotional catharsis. So there is also merit in Christie’s brilliant plot twists and even something to be admired in Nora Roberts’s prolific output of beloved romances. Not all books will stand the test of time and be studied hundreds of years in the future as literature, but they can still be appreciated for what they are: entertainment.
I write novels that are meant to entertain. I’m not preaching at anyone, trying to teach the great unwashed masses, or trying to ram my worldview down anyone’s throat, but I do work hard at crafting a good story; creating likeable, quirky characters; and taking readers on a journey in which good triumphs over evil. Maybe my books won’t end up beside Melville in the annals of literature, but I hope they fulfill the purpose for which I wrote them: bringing joy and laughter to the people who read them.
If you’re looking for some good colon-cleansing bran flakes, look elsewhere. Perhaps here.