Monday, June 15, 2015

Opinionated wuss

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.


marmee said...

Am very careful about reading sad books...or books with horrific things in them. As a young woman I read everything! But now..although i am happy and have had for the most part a happy life i m all too aware of the truly sad and horrifying things than can and do happen. I worked as a hospice caregiver(in the home of the patient) and was taken aback at the sad dysfunction and lack of love that can exist. Yes, I know, there are wonderful people out there and to my delight I did come across them but families that work, that love and care easily and joyfully are rare ....and when a bad thing happens all the nasty old chickens trail home to roost.Long long sidebar but I want for the most part to read about people who at least try, who make lemons out of lemonade....who pass through the fire and emerge shiny and stronger... for sure will read the Kent Haruf. Like him so much anyway.

Sue Hepworth said...

So, Marmee, if you like Kent Haruf, I guess you don't mind the lack of quotes. Is that right?

marmee said...

I DO mind ..terribly!! But like the tenor of his tales...harsh reality but underlaid by a "goodness".
But so dislike the naked look of the a court transcript