The Great Fantasy/Romance Challenge of 2012

The game is afoot!

kingarthurMichelle, a virtual novice in the realm of fantasy (okay, not entirely true, but it’s more fun if we pretend), is reading The Once and Future King, well documented as “the world’s greatest fantasy classic.” It is, of course, T.H. White’s brilliant retelling of the story of King Arthur and Merlin and Excalibur and Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Everybody loves it. What’s not to love?


350684I, Sarah, an absolute innocent when it comes to romance, am reading Whitney, My Love, described in one laudatory quote from Romantic Times as “the ultimate love story, one you can dream about forever.” Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught, it is set in the Regency period where . . . well, I’m only halfway through, but suffice it to say, there is a beautiful and spirited heroine and a dark and dashing leading man.

These were recommendations we made to each other as a way of introducing one another to unfamiliar genres that we both enjoy. Romance, for Michelle, is a bit of a “brain vacation”—is that fair to say, Michelle?—a palette cleanser in between more challenging reads. For me, fantasy is something similar—it is a place I can go, away from my own life, where I can live deeply in a way that’s quite different from my regular existence. I don’t read it to find rest, so it’s not really a vacation, but there is something about the absorption in another world that rejuvenates me. And good fantasy should, I think, illuminate our own lives in some way.

Michelle laughed, and chastised me a bit, for selecting a 700 page book for a fun read (although it must be said that Whitney, My Love also comes in around the 700 page mark). But what she was really looking for from me was a guilty pleasure, something I loved but hated to admit it. I’m honestly not sure I have that sort of skeleton in my closet, though. Maybe once upon a time I would have been embarrassed by my love of fantasy, but those days are long past. Fantasy and science fiction are much more acceptable pursuits now, or so it seems, and the mere act of reading them no longer automatically qualifies one as a hopeless and unlovable loser. Romance novels are probably still stigmatized, however, and in fact, Michelle very kindly gave me a quilted cover so no one has to know I am reading one!

There’s a huge debate somewhere in here—one that’s been taking place in the wider literary world for some time—about genre fiction vs. literary fiction, and I think we should save that for another post.

What I really want to know is: what are your guilty reading pleasures?

Romance? Fantasy? Entertainment Weekly?

I have thought of one, so I will start. I have spent more hours than I want to confess to reading online fan fiction for a (very) few tv shows and movies, and occasionally books (never Jane Austen, though!), that I love. Some of it is very good, lots of it is not, but it satisfies something.

Okay, your turn now!