An opinion piece I wrote on the enormous popularity of romance genre novels -- "Damsels In Distress: Why Do So Many Contemporary Women Read Old-Fashioned Romance Novels" -- generated huge readership and massive amount of commentary (mostly negative).
As an opinion columnist working for a digital publication, I guess I did my job by scoring such high traffic (especially for a subject that, in the grand scheme of things, is not a major news story).
However, perhaps I failed to express my views completely and accurately -- I was, in no way, attacking or degrading the people who are passionate fans of the romantic genre (in fact, as I noted, some of my best friends read these novels, to use a tired cliché). I was merely noting that I was surprised by the widespread appeal that these books enjoy. I feel the exact same way about television reality shows, TV game shows, TV soap operas, TV 'talent' programs, bowling, badminton, violent video games, rap music, Oprah Winfrey and a host of other pop cultural offering that are hugely popular among a broad swath of the population (across all genders, ethnic groups, nationalities, and income brackets).
Of course, just because something is not my "cup of tea" (there's another cliché for you), that does not mean that those who consume these things are "wrong" or "stupid" or "tasteless."
There are in fact many art, literature, sporting and musical forms that I like that others may not -- including cowboy movies, golf, Mario Lanza, Roma (gypsy) music, test cricket, soccer, bluegrass and many others.
But, the real point of my column -- and something that might have gotten lost in the shuffle -- was that the popularity of old-fashioned romance novels featuring conventional and traditional gender roles seems to defy the stances of the modern-day women's liberation movement. I was not making a "judgment" about this -- it is simply a phenomenon I find pretty interesting and even counter-intuitive.
Moreover, a great many of my all-time favorite novels and plays -- including "Wuthering Heights," "Jane Eyre," "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" -- could all be described as part of the "romance" genre since they all center around a love story (although they tend not to have happy endings).
But these aforementioned titles are all considered classic literature -- light years ahead in quality and depth compared to the typical romance novel of Dame Barbara Cartland.
In a way, I am also quite happy that so many people read romance novels -- precisely because it suggests that they are seeking romance, love, passion, tenderness, excitement, gentility, good manners, kindness, joy and happiness in a modern world that is increasingly sinking under the weight of vulgarity, coarseness, materialism, violence, degradation and decadence.
And I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I offended.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.