Friday, September 29, 2017

New York Times disses romance authors

Hey, all, many of you have probably heard about the so-called "book review" of the fall's upcoming romance books, penned by famed literary editor Robert Gottleib, that appeared in Wednesday's issue of the New York Times. If you haven't read the piece, you should check it out, here.

Why the paper thought a man known for editing literary fiction was the best choice for such a piece is more than a bit puzzling. What isn't puzzling is the frustration, disappointment, and outrage felt by romance authors and readers alike by the patriarchal, condescending tone of Gottlieb's piece. Several of those people have written strong blog pieces in reaction: check out Ron Hogan's piece at Medium, "All the Dumb Things You Can Say About Romance Novels, All in One Convenient Place," and Olivia Waite's "Robert Gottlieb is Obviously Smitten" from the Seattle Book Review. And the many, many smart, informed comments people have posted online in the comments section of the article, as well as on the Book Review's Facebook page, are heartening. I hope RWA will send the Times a letter protesting this latest example of shaming the industry, its writers, and its readers.

If you're frustrated, disappointed, and/or outraged by the Times' piece, please let the Times' book review editor know, either by posting a comment in response to the Gottlieb piece online, adding a comment to the Times' Facebook page, or sending an old fashioned snail mail letter to the editor:

Via email: books@nytimes
Via snail mail: The Editor, The New York Times Book Review, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018.

This is the comment I posted on the Book Review's Facebook page:

Wow, sexism, classism, racism, urban bias, ignorance, and misinformation, and even more sexism, all in one book review/roundup. Way to insult so many people at once, NYT.

7 comments:

  1. These articles, of a man laughing about romance novels tend to appear at least once a year, so we shouldn't be surprised. It's not worth even an answer.
    What I don't get is why does Robert Gottlieb (a 86 years old white male who is widely considered to be one of the greatest editors of the second half of the 20th century, the wikipedia says) review romance novels if he does not like them and know so little about the genre? Does he need the money?
    I mean, he is really old, isn't it a little bit downgrading for him to talk about commercial fiction? If his area of expertise is literary fiction, why does he review romance novels? Has he ever reviewed pulp fiction or sci-fi?
    Just for fun? Is NYT click-baiting all of us or what?
    The second thing I thought while I was skimming this 'thing' was that, as per usual, Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steel where mentioned. Please, can't they talk about more modern writers?
    And why does he need to psychoanalyse the readers? Perhaps we just read for fun, it's like asuming there's something wrong in us that we try to fix with our romance books. As I always say, I'm not a different person when I read Kleypas than when I read Dostoyevsky.
    And last but not least, why doesn't he mention any of the more recent trends in the genre, urban fantasy, LGBT or NA, for example?
    So while I'm angry as the next romance reader because of this, I'm a little bit tired of people talking about something they just don't know. I'm not sure they deserve anything but our contempt and cold shoulder.

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    Replies
    1. Bona:

      Sara over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2017/09/new-york-times-book-review-looks-romance/) talks about the fact that this piece was featured on the front page of the NYT Book Review this week, which in a backhanded way is a step forward for romance novel coverage. So I think that's why people are talking about it, and upset about it—the placement of the article would suggest that the NTYBR was giving the genre respect, until one actually READ the article...

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  2. Olivia Waite's response was brilliant!

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  3. Turns out that Gottlieb also spoke on the NYTBR podcast about his romance reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/books/review/recent-romances.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fbook-review&action=click&contentCollection=review&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

    He comes across as more of a fan of the genre than he did in the review, although he does say there is "nothing at stake" in romances (a really curious statement that I wished the interviewer had asked him to flesh out more). He says he enjoys romance: "On the one hand, it does its job, but on the other, it's preposterous." Again, what does he think romance's job is? The interviewer, alas, has no knowledge at all about the genre ("What's a Regency?"), so she doesn't know what questions to ask him to get him to dig deeper into his comments about the genre.

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  4. And the NYT's response to the outcry: as upsetting and disrespectful as the original article, alas: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/reader-center/romance-novels-books-desk.html?smid=fb-nytbooks&smtyp=cur&_r=0

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