The Shameless Escapist

photo by Anna Cervova

My daughter brought home a four-inch-thick volume of fairy tales (Spells of Enchantment, 1991, Penguin Viking, ISBN 067083053) from her high school library yesterday.  She picked it because fairy tales and folk tales convey so much of the culture they originate in.  That’s an excellent reason to read fairy tales, but I leafed through it because my two favorite genres, romance and fantasy, have the fairy tale a few branches up their literary family trees.  I skimmed a telling of ‘Cupid and Psyche’ that had more folk elements than the usual myth and read a French version of Rapunzel written by a contemporary of Charles Perrault (he of Cinderella fame).

Only then did I read the introduction.  The editor, Jack Zipes, provides an overview of fairy tales from the second century to the twentieth.  One of his phrases especially reminded me of why I like writing (and reading) romance: “…fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the verge of catastrophe…”  I’m enough of an optimist to believe that the world may not be on the verge of catastrophe, but one of the reasons I enjoy romance novels is that the best ones give the reader hope as well as entertainment.

I’ve always seen romance as an escapist genre, even for those of us who are happy in our relationships.  I am okay with this.  Sometimes you have an awful day at work and your child got an F for not turning in homework and the cat just produced a hairball the size of Massachusetts on the good rug.  I’ve been there.  (Some days I still am, at least for the hairball part.)  If I can write books where somebody can lose herself in another era with a hero and heroine that she can really care about, my work here is done!

What books and authors do you turn to when you’re stressed and need an escape?  How do they help you?  Georgette Heyer‘s civilized tone and her humor soothe me, and I love Mary Jo Putney’s tortured heroes.  Or I’ll turn to J.R.R. Tolkien for the sheer beauty of his language and the fabulous heroes he writes (in the non-romantic sense, lol).

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