Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hell Hath No Inventiveness Like a Romance-Reader Scorned

When Gabby Maait, Kat Mayo and Jennifer Wu discovered that the Sydney Writers' Festival was ignoring popular romance fiction, its writers and readers, they were angry - and then they got inventive.

They made a range of postcards which could be left at the festival to challenge perceptions of the genre. Bearing in mind that romance novels are often judged by their covers:

This "cover remix [...] features an Australian classic, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, re-imagined as a chicklit romance."

This "cover remix [...] features The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde re-imagined as a paranormal romance" because, as Kat points out
Today The Picture of Dorian Gray a classic work of literature, and no critic would dismiss it because they think it will raise men’s expectations of debauched lifestyles. Contrast this to romance fiction, which is blamed for women having unrealistic expectations in relationships, of being porn for women (nothing more than a masturbatory aid rather than an expression of art or a form of literary entertainment), or of being escapist and therefore too light for serious review or analysis.

This one gives a clinch cover to Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles ("A classic bodice-ripper ... without the happy ending") to make the point that "in our books women always win."

The covers were designed by Jennifer Wu, who's written about the project here. You can see more of her work on her website. She also has prints/iPhone and iPod cases/skins of the original artwork for these covers available for sale. Here's Tess, The Picture and My Brilliant Career.

There are also two postcards featuring quotes from romance novels (one from Patricia Brigg's Fair Game and the other from Untamed by Anna Cowan). On the reverse, all of the cards carry a quote from Judith Arnold:
To belittle romance fiction is to belittle women. To read romance fiction is to confront the strength of women, the variety of their experience, and the validity of their aspirations and accomplishments
I think Jennifer, Kat and Gabby have given us a very impressive taste of their "aspirations and accomplishments."


  1. I read about this in Book Thingo -and all the kerfuffle about that Sydney Festival. These ladies are incredible!
    I specially like Tess of the D'Urbervilles' postcard.

  2. The Tess postcard's my favourite too.