Elly May, Peggy Hole and Genre Diversity

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clever intelligent erotic romance
Kitty Knows Beast

I’ve always found the concept of books having to fit squarely into set ‘genres’ difficult to stomach – much as I don’t like being reduced to a homogenised category myself. Back in high school I resented the reductionism of ‘oh, she’s a nerdy, brainy, teacher’s-pet type, so she must be hopeless at sport, clumsy as a gazelle in a doll’s house, and about as sophisticated as Elly May Clampett.’

It’s the same with books.  Why does fitting in one genre automatically preclude a book from being in any other?  Why can’t I read a detective-driven murder mystery written in a thoughtful ‘literary’ style?  Why does acceptance into a certain genre mean a book must adhere to all of that genre’s cookie-cutter conventions – and woe if it should fail to meet those requirements – or worse still – step beyond those boundaries!

I understand that purveyors of the written word need some sort of system in order to ‘shelve’ items so each book’s ideal readers can find them – even in a world where the solid mahogany of an heirloom bookshelf has given way to non-tangible ‘virtual shelves’, but surely a book shouldn’t HAVE to fit squarely into just one round hole? Surely a little wriggle room so square pegs can jostle around a little or span several holes of various shapes and sizes, should be able to be accommodated in this PC-conscious, celebration-of-diversity modern world?

Why are books not allowed to be eccentrically-individual complex amalgams?  Why can’t a book be both sci-fi and chick lit?  Why can’t a book be both literary and cozy mystery?  And why on earth is any book that has a romantic central story arc required to adhere to specific ‘beats’?  (And if any the genres I’ve quoted truly are mutually exclusive then that just shows how very confused I am about what each genre label means!)

During the course of selecting which books to include on cleverotic.com, it became wonderfully apparent what a varied scope of books are written, even when you just ask for two criteria in a work of prose – that it be clever and that it be erotic!  The books here have diverse settings, eras, protagonists, quests, even ‘genres’, yet they still manage to be beautifully, individually cleverotic.  And many (if not most) all defy the conventions of their so-called genres.

I love that individuality.  I love that these authors have written something truly smart and sexy, even when it doesn’t fit the typical ‘romance’ mould.

As someone who would have been labelled square by my ‘cool’ (which means ‘hip’, you youngsters) high-school peer group, I wish that my square books could be allowed to fit in whatever hole they seem to fit. Books – like we people – can be complex things, but I firmly believe they should be viewed holistically (rather than hole-istically)!

Not everyone wants to read the same old thing.  Let’s celebrate our literary diversity with as much pride as we do our genetic diversity, and allow our genres the flexibility to accept new ‘minority refugees’ into their midst.


2 Responses

  1. Laurie
    | Reply

    Brilliant post! Thank you for putting, in elegant terms, something I have been grappling with as an author and reader for many years. Although I am a romance writer, I don’t actually read romance books because it’s so hard to find smart smut that doesn’t pander to a religious set of tropes for the genre.

    I was starting to worry there weren’t enough readers out there who agreed with me and that maybe I was wasting my time producing a more literary style of romance.

    A while back I spotted a couple of posts on a Goodreads forum stating there should be a literary/romance category – for smart people who like a little brains with their braun. It inspired me to keep going for a while but whenever I read yet another “expert” article about how to write and market books it always comes back to “fitting neatly into the genre mould”. Ugh.

    So thank you for this. And thank you for venturing out into this brave new territory. I would be delighted to help throw some weight behind the cause, just drop me a note.

    • cleverotica
      | Reply

      Hi Laurie,
      So glad you dropped by. Yes, I think there should be some way on book sites to search for ‘intelligent’ and more literary styles of romance and erotica. We couldn’t find any way of searching to find the books we wanted to read, which is why we started cleverotic.com. We hope you like it. And welcome, Laurie, to the cleverotic family. (Laurie is the author of ‘Like a Bird’, listed here on cleverotic.com).
      Cheers, Evie

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