Another month invariably means another issue of Open Letters Monthly! Just in case anyone who visits Novel Readings doesn’t already automatically check out our new issues, here are some highlights that might encourage you to click on over. The range of topics seems particularly broad to me: that eclecticism may be part of what keeps us relatively obscure, but it’s also what makes the whole enterprise fun and interesting for the editors. So, for example, this month we have:
Justin Hickey on a book that encourages us to think of fish as far more than food
Zach Rabiroff on a new biography of “the cute one,” Paul McCartney
Dorian Stuber on a book that examines Primo Levi’s perhaps less-than-exemplary conduct when he was in the Resistance
Steve Donoghue on a thoughtful and even-handed study of the Creation Museum that really should have been a screed
Laura Tanenbaum on a new biography of anarchist poet Lola Ridge
And that’s not all! Sara Malton reviews Charlotte Mathieson’s Mobility in the Victorian Novel, Steve Danziger interviews an Oulipo translator, there’s new poetry, there are pieces from our rich archives, and … Well, at this point, if I haven’t piqued your curiosity you are beyond reaching.
My own contribution is a review of Mary Balogh’s Only Beloved that doubles as a more general piece on romance fiction, that “most despised and rejected of genres.” It reflects both the journey I’ve taken in my own reading and thinking about the genre since I first posted about it here and the reading I’ve begun doing as preparation for teaching Lord of Scoundrels in my Pulp Fiction class next winter. It doesn’t say anything that will surprise (or perhaps even interest) an audience already well versed in these debates, and it might even just tire romance readers who have had enough of defenses of the genre. But the general prejudice certainly persists, and I wanted to try my hand at confronting it in what I hope is a measured way, and especially by talking about specific examples. I thought Mary Balogh would make an interesting case because she’s so different from what (in my experience, anyway) most people assume romance novels are like, especially post-50 Shades of Grey. I hope I avoided the pitfalls romance “think pieces” often fall into.