Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Defense of Fluff

So, technically I'm a day late, but does it really count if I haven't gone to bed yet? Yes, my sleeping habits are atrocious.

The idea for this post struck me because, to be honest, I've been reading quite a bit of fluff lately. I figured that if my distinguished cohort, Mel, was going to go so far as to defend Bad Writing I'd take my chances with Fluff.

You may be asking yourself: Well, Erica, what exactly do you mean by Fluff, that's a pretty vague term.

Fear not. I have a definition. 'Fluff' is the sort of ridiculous fiction that, if you are at all literarily minded, you feel sort of ashamed of reading. But you do it anyway. Because Fluff exists for no other reason than to be engrossing in the most awful of ways, end with some sappy cliche, and leave you with happy warm bits of love floating about inside you.

Now you may be asking yourself: Isn't Fluff the same as Bad Writing, or at least it's product?

I contend that it is not. Certainly, a great deal of Fluff is badly written. However, bad writing is simply bad writing and can be inflicted on something not remotely fluffy at all. Now, here's where I tread into dangerous territory. I also contend that some Fluff is very well written indeed.

Just as bad writing is simply bad writing, good writing is simply good writing. It can happen to sweet stories just like it can happen to heavy ones. Granted we all love to praise Joyce and Dostoevsky but who among us really, in their heart of hearts, wants to curl up with Crime and Punishment on a rainy afternoon?

At this point you may be sniffing huffily to yourself and thinking: I for one enjoy fine Russian literature.

Well sure, I do too. But we all have that slim paper back volume we're not entirely sure we want our friends to know we read.

Sometimes it's nice to just relax and let a story take you where it's going to go without thinking about it's thematic or social integrity or noting the subtle layers and pleasing moral ambiguity of its characters. Sometimes its nice to know that the good guy is going to win just because he's the good guy and everyone is going to wind up madly in love with who they're supposed to. (I'm a girl, I like a good thread of romance in my novels. )

Yes, storytelling has wonderful, grandiose heights of great philosophic importance and relating at least a touch of that is part of good writing. But not every story has an that great of a point to make. Not every character is all that complex. Not every plot thrilling. That doesn't mean the book is bad.

It's just fun.

It's Fluff.

Like cotton candy for the brain: no redeeming nutritional value but my doesn't it taste good. And like candy, if it's not in excess, why not indulge every once in a while?



Anonymous said...

I, for one, enjoy fine Russian literature.

But in all seriousness, I've been reading a lot of Phantom of the Opera fanfiction lately. Not even the decent ones. And I'm loving the hell out of them.

Bleak House, on the other hand, has been sitting on my desk for a couple of months, with my bookmark at around page 50 or so.

So yes, I feel that there is a time and a place for fluff. To continue your food analogy, I find that fluff is like comfort food. After a long day, who wants to cook a three course meal? I'd rather order Chinese and down some cookie dough when no one's looking.

Actually, I've been meaning to do a post on fanfiction... that will happen at some point.


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