Tuesday, November 17, 2015

DOC NYC ’15: Love Between the Covers

By now, we all understand how romance readers often feel a strong emotional connection to their favorite authors. Remember when Annie Wilkes hobbled Paul Sheldon in Misery? That was a strong emotional connection. Yet, somehow that iconic scene is never referenced in Laurie Kahn’s Love Between the Covers (trailer here), an introduction to romance fandom that screens during this year’s DOC NYC.

Those who work in publishing might focus on the most extraneous details in Covers, like why are there so many James Rollins paperbacks on the shelves in the opening credits? Perspective is everything. Fans and authors alike routinely complain the genre gets no respect, but if you have ever tried to get any sort of book besides romances into mass merchandisers, you know a high percentage of their book space is devoted to the genre, right off the top.

Regardless, readers have a right to gripe about snotty hipster attitudes (and they do). If you work all day and then go home to take care of some entitled brats, you should feel free to take what pleasures you can from series romances, 50 Shades of Grey, or 120 Days of Sodom. The problem with Covers is it is unabashedly fannish and pretty shallow.

Granted, the authors Kahn profiles are quite charming (which also holds true of every romance novelist I’ve ever met at trade shows). Look, they understood the principles of social media before Mark Zuckerberg. Mary Bly (an English professor and daughter of poet Robert Bly, who writes romance under the name Eloisa James) is a particularly charismatic and eloquent presence. Unfortunately, the film never really gets past the H.E.A. (“happily ever after”) formula and repetitive anecdotes of friendships forged through fandom.

Even if you knew precious little about trade publishing, you will hardly be shocked to learn romance books are the commercial drivers of the industry, largely written and consumed by women. That is about all Covers has for outsiders, but fans will appreciate the screen time granted to popular bestsellers, like Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz. Frankly, that is what the film is all about. Only recommended for the fans it was intended for, Love Between the Covers screens this Thursday (11/19) at the IFC Center, as part of DOC NYC 2015.