Over at Twitter, I’ve added my 2 cents to a discussion of a recent Salon.com piece on romance and erotica. And of course, I’ve also been writing my heart out about Regency romance at Goodreads.
Here’s another sidelong contribution, a poem by a recent Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, who’d probably be surprised that I’m putting it to this use.
Bear with me and Ryan here: we’re descending into a bit of a vortex, because her poem begins in response to an epigraph by Annie Dillard that I think could be read as a defense of what’s often called “literary fiction.”
Got that? Here we go…
THE TEST WE SET OURSELVES
An honest work generates its own power; a dishonest work tries to rob power from the cataracts of the given. — Annie Dillard
If we could be less human,
if we could stand out of the range
of the cataracts of the given,
and not find our pockets swollen
with change we haven’t–but must have–
stolen, who wouldn’t?
It isn’t a gift; we are beholden
to the sources we crib–
always something’s overflow,
or someone’s rib hidden in our breast;
the answer sewn inside us
that invalidates the test we set ourself
against the boneless angel at our right
and at our left the elf.
— Kay Ryan, from Flamingo Watching, 1994
See, it seems to me that rather than always defend romance as empowering and the rest of it, we ought to treasure “the answer sewn inside us”. Genre as the given. Which we wouldn’t need to be givien “if we could be less human”.