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gertrude

July 2018

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woman's magazine

The Nervous Reader

Yesterday I commented on someone’s blog that I hadn’t read Douglas Coupland’s Girlfriend in a Coma because I found the subject frightening. Then I realized that the list of things I don’t want to read about gets longer all the time. It includes comas, head injuries, mental health problems, hospitals, extreme violence, car crashes: goodness, it goes on and on. What makes this interesting (to me, anyway) is that when I was young I read anything. I’d read most of the great classics, including ‘difficult’ books like Ulysses before I was twenty; nothing was too avant-garde or harrowing for me in those days. Now I’m struggling with Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, which is being praised to the skies all around the book blogs. It is a very good book indeed but I’m finding Dr Singh’s trials in the Amazon jungle almost too much for me. I suppose that life has got in the way; that unpleasant experiences make a person less likely to seek them in fiction but rather to look for comfort and positive thinking.

In other book news I’m also struggling with ‘E M Delafield’s famous novel’ Humbug. Not that there’s anything frightening about it; it’s simply far too long and very dull. Who’d 'a thought it? I feel like starting on Christmas reading.

Comments

I know exactly what you mean, and I think that's why I wasn't inclined to read Lionel Shriver's "...Kevin" when it was first out. Here's to 'comfort and positive thinking' in reading!
Hear, hear!
The main reason that I now read (and write) almost exclusively romance is that when I was in my worst period of depression I couldn't bear to read anything else. I've never been a great one for gritty realism in fiction - I think there's enough of that in real life. I like a little (or a lot of) escapism in my reading diet.
I'm similar, but with detective fiction (the cosy sort, not the gritty kind) - I do enjoy the intellectual puzzle.

I never read Girlfriend in a Coma because at the time it came out I was too scared that the Millenium Bug would turn out to be real and civilisation would collapse, and couldn't bear to read post-apocalyptic fiction (though I did read lots as a child). And then I kind of grew out of Coupland anyway.
Like Ros, I see nothing wrong in escapist literature and like you I enjoy cosy crime. Another point is that life consists of both good and bad things but 'gritty realism' always means the bad.
I don't like very sad or very graphic books either. I read fiction purely for pleasure. No depressing or sickening stories for me!
I'm starting to feel life's too short to read a book because you think you ought to.

(Anonymous)

I think when we are young most of us haven't experienced tragedy and horrors and many don't have the imagination to even conceive of say, the Holocaust. When we get older, we get it. We already know about the bad things in the world, and I for one, and maybe you for two, simply do not need, do not want our reading time to be just like the news. Give me Miss Read any old day, or O. Douglas, or a million others who will never get awards or recognition because they don't tell about awful things. Whew. End of sermon. :<)
You have the root of the matter in you, as Angela Thirkell would have said. Another good writer for a comfort read.