I’ve been thinking about the kind of books I read. Classics, pop fiction, poetry, biography–anything except romances.
Ten years ago I collected and perused many out-of-print British novels by Rumer Godden, Dodie Smith, D. E. Stevenson, Rachel Ferguson, and Pamela Frankau.
It’s been a while since I’ve read these authors, but I wonder: is my taste twee?
What’s twee and what’s not? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it is “affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint.”
Can writers be great and twee? I love Rachel Ferguson’s Alas, Poor Lady, a brilliant novel about a distressed gentlewoman. But an earlier book, The Brontes Went to Woolworths, is so fanciful that I conclude it is twee. As the book description at Goodreads says, the Carne sisters “live a life unchecked by their mother in their bohemian town house. Irrepressibly imaginative, the sisters cannot resist making up stories as they have done since childhood; from their talking nursery toys, Ironface the Doll and Dion Saffyn the pierrot, to their fulsomely-imagined friendship with real high-court Judge Toddington…”
What about the brilliant, underrated writer, Rumer Godden? She is usually delegated to the rank of dead pop writers, but I adore Kingfishers Catch Fire, a kind of pre-hippie novel about a single mother and two children who move to Kashmir to live cheaply. But there is occasionally something mannered about her voice, her rhetorical repetition, and chronological jumping around. I happen to like that myself. Twee or not twee?
George Eliot: never twee. Max Beerbohm: always twee. I am definite about those two.