Friday, August 28, 2009
SPEAKING OF OLD-SCHOOL ROMANCES...
The photo has only a small connection with the blog. It is an image from the late 1940s when romances were all 'clean'. The young couple at the top of the picture are my dad and mum, and it would have been taken (with assorted relatives and friends) when we were on our annual camping holiday to the beach. And the area is now a 'resort' and heavily built up. Ah, those clean, clear beaches, with nothing behind them but sand dunes...
To return to the subject - I don't recall my mum reading romances, though she did buy the "True Confessions" magazine! I was never tempted to look at one, (as a child, I read adventure stories, particularly Biggles. Hardly ever a female character in those.) But True Confessions was considered pretty lurid in those days. I heard Mum discuss various stories with her friends, and nothing worse seemed to occur than an unexpected baby. No sex scenes, it just appeared. That was a matter to be whispered about. Now every second Harlequin has the words 'secret baby' in the title, on the cover!
My mother was the most practical person I ever knew. Perhaps the scandalous stories were her escape from the mundane world of housework and bringing up a family.
I do recall her once commenting on a short story in a women's magazine, when I was a teenager. I'd read it too, and still remember it. The heroine was a writer, and absent minded, which was a bit of a turnoff for her husband. She was a very nice woman, plain, wore glasses, and looked after her house and kids if in a casual sort of way. Bad cook, too. She wrote stories for magazines, and when she wrote she wasn't aware of kids creating bedlam in the house or anything else - totally 'in the zone', as we say. Hubby of course was the No.1 breadwinner and it bothered him she was contributing to the budget. It bothered him she was not like other wives, totally taken up with their families and keeping a sparkling house. Don't mistake, he was a nice man too. It just disturbed him that the accepted order was a bit different in his family. He found her 'in the zone' one evening and yelled it was time for dinner. She snapped out of it and had a meal ready in half-an-hour. As usual, it was awful. He stormed out, went for a long walk and brooded. When he returned home, full of angst, he found her asleep on the sofa. She had changed into a good dress , put on stockings and accessorised with jewellery, which she normally never wore.
He was quite moved, and told her how he felt about everything, and she agreed and - took off her glasses. Now this was what Mum commented on. "Every time she took off her glasses he was done for!" It was like a modern heroine taking off her clothes - the hubby couldn't resist, and forgot all his complaints! We understood, the readers, that they made love, but no mention was written of it. At the end of the story he was reconciled to his "dear, funny wife," and their dear, funny marriage. He never wanted her to take off her glasses for anyone but him...
It's strange how clearly I remember the story, and Mum's amusement at it. But unexpected things stick in your mind. Most notable to me now, in the general sense, is the excellent short stories published by magazines in the nineteen fifties. These days we are lucky to see a single one in the top magazines, and that's usually by an established author. I don't read them, so I can't comment on them. But I remember the impressive artwork that went with the short story in the past, instead of the generic small sketches, surrounded by advertisements, we get now. Magazines are glossy records of celebrities, news stories, huge expensive ads, recipes that always require ingredients not normally kept in your kitchen, serious beauty and anti-ageing articles - you know the stuff! I miss the three or four stories that used to be in every issue. It can't really be helped, readers are mostly women with high-powered jobs, society belles, and those who aspire to be in that class. Magazines are no longer friendly. They cater to people who are busy, who don't have time to sit and read short stories and serials, who have T.V. and computers to distract them from the pages. So the pages have to reflect modern life. That's just the way it is.
But I'd like to see a tale as memorable and simple as that story of the unconventional wife, unconventional because she wrote and wasn't houseproud, and a husband rendered helpless to resist when she took off her glasses... It's this kind of innocence, and the aspects of life and love apparent then, which are promoted by Classic Romance Revival and addressed by its writers, to those of us who prefer the more wholesome reading. That sounds terribly dull and old-fashioned! It isn't, our heroines and heroes are modern people with modern problems, but without the attached erotica which we personally find unnecessary to add to their stories.
CRR's new website is now open. Do drop by for a peek and a comment. Link is: http://www.classicromancerevival.com