This week I thought about novels that inspired the writer within (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier), novels whose prose wowed me (Crescent by Diana Abu Jaber), novels that I’d call nearly perfect in every way (Atonement by Ian McEwan), and novels that I love just because I love them (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). And even novels that I hate (The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen this means you).
But what about novels I love to hate? These are the books I read in secret and that I have never admitted (until now) that I actually … sheepishly … loved reading. Forget my literary aspirations and finely tuned critical faculties, I tore through these books despite myself. I give you:
Victoria Holt gothic romances. As a kid I’d gravitate to the revolving paperback racks while my mom putzed the library shelves. The covers transfixed me. All those damsels wearing impossible dresses fleeing ominous man-shadows who stood in broody castle doorways. Later, in my 20s, I worked in publishing talking literature by day and read Victoria Holt by night. A therapist might say I had a secret hankering to be saved. I say whatever.
A.M. Roquelaure Sleeping Beauty trilogy. Move over 50 Shades of Grey, Anne Rice, our favorite vampire writer, had long ago plumbed the depths of the BDSM scene under her Roquelaure pseudonym–and with more finesse and wit too. I learned terms such as “pony play” and thought I was quite the thing. And what could be better than perverting a classic fairy tale trope? (Oddly–or maybe not?–this phase and the gothic romance phase overlapped. Let’s not analyze, OK?)
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I know, I know, cardboard characters, yadda yadda yadda, but I’m a sucker for esoteric Catholic mumbo jumbo and alternative theories about our man Jesus’ life. And I love art and architecture, and cool puzzles, and symbology. So, yes, I was meant to read this novel in a day and get all pumped up about the Knights Templar and Mary Magdalene. I love a good Catholic Church conspiracy theory even if it’s fictional.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. OH man, did I love this book when I was teenager. The recent Lifetime movie remake got me thinking about it again. What was it about this story? It was titillating. Yes, it was. Nasty moms and illicit sibling sex. Yeesh, I’m feeling all weirded out and excited just typing this. Blech, but such a lovely blech.
It occurs to me that sometimes books really are just entertainment. Plus, there’s something so good about the “bad” sometimes, don’t you think? It’s like watching the food poisoning scene in “Bridesmaids” and laughing your ass off despite yourself. The scene is so awfully funny the way these novels are so awfully entertaining.
OK, ‘fess up, what are your guilty pleasure novels?