Friday, January 29, 2016

In Defense of Crap

In 2008, the Nashville Public Library honored John Irving with their Literary Award. The morning of the award gala, Irving spoke about books and writing at the Ryman. Near the end of the Q&A session, a teenage girl asked the ubiquitous question: "How do I become a writer?" Irving told her she must read, read, read, and then he said something that became my personal reading mantra: "Being well-read is the best defense against crap."

But folks, today I come to defense of crap. 

Just before Christmas, I was killing time in a San Francisco bookstore while Ken finished his Christmas shopping*, and I saw a book recommended "for those waiting on Downton Abbey to return." What's this? A book for Downton fans? I am a Downton fan. So I bought a copy of Rhys Bowen's A Royal Pain

Y'all. The series is called Her Royal Spyness. Because the protagonist is a down-on-her-luck Lady Georgiana, and she solves murders that keep happening around her. HA! These books are not great literature. They do not have themes or motifs. Each book repeats Lady Georgiana's basic facts (her mother was an actress, her father lost their fortune, her great-great grandmother was Queen Victoria) because as long as you know her general penniless but royal siuation, you can dive right in anywhere in the series. And I know this because I've read ALL BUT ONE of them. That's eight Her Royal Spynesses. I can't stop! They're like book candy. And Georgie (as her friends call her) has a not-quite-solidified relationship with a man named Darcy. Darcy! For Pete's sake. 

You know what makes it worse? I'm on book five of Bowen's Constable Evans series! Constable Evans works in a small Welsh village called Llanfair, and while he's merely a village constable, he solves murders that keep happening around him. And he has a not-quite-solidified relationship with a schoolteacher named Bronwyn. Each book is prefaced with a list of Welsh words and phrases, their meanings, and their pronunciations. Almost everyone in the town is an Evans, so they're called "Evans-the-Law" and "Evans-the-Milk" and "Evans-the-Meat**." I. Can't. Even. 

A few Constable Evanses ago, I decided to let go and let God. And I started Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series. 

Maybe "crap" isn't the right term for my new loves. Compared to my usual picks--Jhumpa Lahiri, the Brontes, Eudora Welty***--they are juvenile. But they're well-written stories, albeit kind of see-through and silly. But dang it, there are certain reading times that just call for a murder-solving cousin of the king. 

What are your favorites that fall in the, shall we say, "lightweight" realm? (You have them, right? Please say you have them.)

*He was buying my engagement ring, but I didn't know that at the time, of course.
**Minds out of the gutter, he's the butcher.
***Eudora Welty short stories only. It took me a long time to admit I don't really like her novels. The admission was quite freeing.


  1. I don't know how long I can keep putting off starting this series. I'm so curious about Her Royal Spyness!
    My crap is Janet Evanavich's Stephanie Plum series. I know exactly what I'm getting and she always makes me laugh. It's like catching up with a good friend.

  2. Hey--if Mel, Andrea, AND BuzzFeed say it's a good guilty pleasure, then who am I to doubt?