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Nobody write like a virgin anymore

15 April 2009

Danielle Steel, who has written a measly 79 novels, is a slacker compared to María del Socorro Tellado López, better known as Corín Tellado. Steel is a slow writer, though capable of multi-tasking, reportedly taking two years to finish a book.  Or, maybe sex slows her down (writing about it, I mean… I have no idea what Ms. Steel does in her personal life, or even if she has one).   Since 1946, Tellado turned out a minimum novels a week —  often hinting at the possibility of, but never doing, the deed.

No one seems to be sure exactly how many novels Tellado wrote … well over 4000.  They were simple stories.  Girl meets boy, girl almost loses boy, girl snags boy… with the plot twist that the girl remains a virgin.    Her last work was finished two days before her death last week… which means she probably had time to at least knock out a chunk of the next one.

These were not literary masterpieces, nor meant to be. Unlike world-champ romance writer, Barbara Cartland, who could only pull off the trick of presenting virginal heroines by using a historical setting, Tellado was noted among romance writers for using a contemporary European setting.  At least for the first half of her career,  a virginal heroine was believable, being set in Francoist Spain.  As time went on, and her Latin American readership grew, the stories were a bit more, shall we say, racy.  In a nice, convent-educated way.

That’s not to denigrate Tellado.    While her plots and characters were, of course, predictable, Tellado has carved out a niche in literature.  She basically invented the contemporary romance novel, which, according to Wikipedia (about as far into researching this field of literature I’m willing to go), has only been considered a genre since the 1970s.

This makes Tellado a true pioneer in the field, one reason she was praised by more “literary” writers, like Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.  Though perhaps not on the cutting edge of literary style, Tellado kept up with the changes in her readership.  Following Franco’s death, when Spain was rapidly catching up with the rest of the world in mores and manners, the author produced a series of erotic novels, protecting the “Corín Tellado” brand by publishing under the English sounding pseudonym “Ada Miller Lewsy”.  Tellado also wrote probably the first Spanish-language internet novel, Milagro en el camino (2000)

As a Spanish-language writer, Tellado’s only competitor, when it comes to readership is Miguel Cervantes… but then, he’s required reading everywhere Spanish is spoken.

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