I think, perhaps, I take fiction too much to heart. If a book or film speaks to me and draws me into its world, I care too much about the people in it. Then if there is a sad conclusion, I am sick at heart.
Sometimes if a book is too depressing I stop reading it, no matter how beautifully it’s written. I’m looking at you Marilynne Robinson, Per Petterson, and the man who wrote that dreary book Stoner (whose name I have obviously repressed and can’t be bothered to look up now.) Call me a philistine. I really don’t care. Life is sad enough without immersing myself in fictional miseries.
Do you like sad books?
I’ve just read Pontoon by Garrison Keillor and I loved it. It was classic Keillor, and it cheered me up immensely. It made me forget I was feeling rotten.
Then I read Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. I read it despite the fact that it wasn’t available in paperback and despite the fact that Haruf eschews quotation marks. I read it because of this review. I couldn’t not.
How do you feel about quotation marks? My heart sinks when I open a book and there are none. Why do authors leave them out? I would like to discuss it with one of those who practise this abomination. For me, it interferes with effortless comprehension, and it makes the words on the page a depressing sludge.
Despite the lack of quotes in Haruf’s book, I commend it to you. It is beautifully written. Yes, it has a sad ending, and because I was reading it on Kindle and wasn’t aware that I was on the last page, it took me by surprise and hit me in the gut. But the book is an exception that proves Hepworth’s rule: despite the lack of quotes and despite the sad ending, I shall read it again. That’s how much I liked it.