So I find myself in sort of an unusual position.
On one hand I find myself prepared to praise a romantic comedy – a literary form I’ve long approached with a certain skepticism. It isn’t that I’m opposed to these boy-meets-loses-gets-back-girl tales, I just find the fairy tale happy endings a little too pat – a little too clean.
Except I’m not sure the book I read was, in fact, a romantic comedy. I think it might be something far more complicated – a deconstructed wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The book, which bears the very rom-comy title Love Literary Style, was written by Augusta author and Augusta Chronicle By the Book columnist Karin Gillespie. She is best known for her female-centric books focusing on Southern characters and characteristics and, in many way, Love Literary Style adheres to those tropes.
The novel takes place in Georgia and her characters feel very familiar. There is an element of empowerment for a female character who might have otherwise been marginalized. There is a classic Southern academic, familiar to anyone who has been fed Faulkner at one of the region’s many institutions of higher learning. There are best friends and ex-loves and all the assorted folk that fuel the well-oiled engine of a romantic comedy. So too, many of the situations fit the mold – the meet cute, the opposites attracting, an element of mistaken identity, misunderstanding leading to separation. Jane Austen invented it, Nora Ephron perfected it and now, by lining up the expected elements like dominos, Karin Gillespie is able to both embrace the game while knocking them all down.
You see, Love Literary Style works as a romantic comedy, but it excels as a satire of the form. It’s a meta attack on formulaic writing that also serves as a love letter. It understands how those forms work and, using that understanding, both undermines and embraces it. It’s a book about writing romantic fiction, the problems of romantic fiction, the formulaic beauty of romantic fiction and most significantly, the process of writing – romantic fiction in particular, but fiction generally as well.
The result is a book that is always very self-aware, always winking at the reader and admitting that the predictable story beats it indulges in are both essential to the story and slightly silly in their predictability.
The shame of Love Literary Style is that it is so carefully constructed, its prose style so well-suited for both embracing and eviscerating the rom-com style, that readers may miss not only its post-modern approach, but the effort it must have taken to pull the many disparate threads and ideas together. It is proof positive that light and breezy can couple with smart, startling and sharp. Opposites, after all, always attract.
Romantic comedies taught me that.
Love Literary Style will be released Nov. 1.