October 10, 2006
That Which Simmers Is Not to Be Dissed
By IAN URBINA
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — Time was when it seemed safe to regard the works of Plato as intellectually superior to the racy romance novels of, say, Nora Roberts. In underground Washington, those days are over.
Consider the hoo-ha over new subway posters that try to capitalize on the percentage of people with advanced degrees living in the region.
The Greater Washington Initiative, a business group devoted to attracting investment to the area, put up the posters, which feature side-by-side photographs: of a man reading Plato’s “Republic,” under the caption “Greater Washington Subway Reading,” and of the same man poring over a romance novel, under the caption “Average Subway Reading.”
The reaction from romance writers — and readers — was as fast and heated as a steamy sex scene.
“I’m an erotic romance/romance publisher, and I live in your marketing area,” Stephanie V. Kelsey, editor in chief and chief operations officer of Mojocastle Press, wrote to the group. “Despite the erroneous position many take that romance is ‘easy money,’ it requires the same hard work, honing of skill and commitment as any other genre. To insinuate otherwise in a media representation of your company is not recommended, and we are not amused.
It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Obviously I need to lose my out-moded meta-narrative and embrace the new po-mo one that there is no meta-narrative. After all, who has the right to say that Plato is better than a romance novel? Aren't they both of equal value in nourishing your mind and soul?
Just think if they had shown the same person reading The Republic in a Loeb or Oxford Classical Text!