A few months ago, I happen to mention to a colleague -- a lovely woman, intelligent, educated, and successful or successful enough-- that I was planning to published a book of Romantic Stories. "Nine Romantic Stories is the title I'm thinking of," I said. "You know, a hint of Salinger with romance thrown in."
"What, you romance?" was the general tenor of her response.
"Why not?" I replied. "I am a Romantic as in Romanticism."
She regarded me with almost tender concern. She shook her head. "I wouldn't have imagined that."
Her sorry emphasis of the word "that" implied that being a Romantic was akin to, say, watching Reality TV shows non-stop or perhaps confessing a secret addiction to deep-fried Twinkies.
"A Romantic with a capital R, yes, I am," I said. "As in Brahms and landscapes and Bronte."
She returned to her ascetic salad (which had no dressing, only a little lemon and consisted of fragile infant vegetables.) "I can't see the point of that, it's not real life," she said.
"No, that's what it's called fiction. It's better than real life, it's a story," I reminded her.
But I wasn't about to convince a reader who immerses herself in tales of recovering addicts, mothers and daughters who hate each other, men who commit serial murders, and varied tales of mafia killings, not to mention corporate greed. Not for her, a story of ghosts and music, marriage and deception, even nervous young love. And I thought, once more, that being a Romantic in this cynical new century takes nerve.