I have read some really interesting books in the past few months, friends. There's a caveat, though: most of these books, while excellent, were also hideous bummers.
Here's what I mean.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
This author did exactly one thing: blow me away. Her use of metaphor and emotion in language was stunning and often beautiful, even though the content was harsh. The protagonist is also the antagonist: a teenage anorexic. It's horrid, scary stuff, and I was drawn in so completely that it left me empty. I couldn't take it. Beautiful, frightening, and gut-checking. This book is not good. It is awful and exquisite, and I could recommend it for those qualities, but good? No.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I read this on the advice of a dear friend, and I did love the book. Every word and gesture, every blunt truth and honest sadness. I can completely understand why this book has developed a cult following, and if I were a teenager reading this, I would have been devoted to its perfection. But I'm a mom. And I was disturbed by mom things. By teenagers who hate their parents or parents who don't notice their kids. By children who explore (because that's what children do, right? Only now, it scares me).
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Oh, I'm only putting this out there because I feel like there was something lovely about The Night Circus, but I can't put my finger on it. There's only so much redeeming you can do when the main characters are out to murder one another minus their own consent. But it was magical, in a creepy way. Still, I didn't want to be disturbed. I wanted to be entertained. Shallow? Maybe. As a book consumer, though, it's a valid desire.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Love, love, loved this one, as have most others in the known literary world. These characters were so complete, so real, that I felt like I knew them intimately. Which, as it turns out, was a devastating effect, you know, because of the terminal cancer and all. It's a true testament to good writing when you actually find yourself wanting to stay with the book even though you know it will hurt you in the end. So, yeah: this one was perfect. Still, I don't want to read any more like it for a good, long time. Too many sad stories of families whose kids were invaded by bastardish cancer cells. I don't want to think about it. Let's move on.
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
Massive, scary behemoth that it was, I found much to love about this book. I also found much to hate. Much to question. The main character in this book wasn't really lovable, but still, I couldn't not sympathize with him for all the absolutely shitty things he had to endure. Some because of his own decision-making, but others? Like the Columbine shooting? His wife's incarceration? His childhood? Very ugly. I wish I could sum it up more succinctly, but at almost 800 pages, the book defies narrowing. It's just....big. Depressingly large, both physically and mentally. Now that I try, I can't remember what I liked about it. Masterful writing, perhaps. Compelling situations. What else...?
So after all of those challenging and ugly things (which were mostly wrapped up in beautiful words), I've given up on literary endeavors for the time being. I'm defecting to genre. I can't help it, and judge me if you will, but I can't take the sadness of real life right now. I find myself too wrapped up in what my children's futures hold to look bald-faced into the scarier parts of reality. I know it could be rough. I know it could get messy. But I don't want to be disturbed right now.
I want to relax and love my family in the present without imposing the possibilities of life on them.
And that means that my reading choices will be geared toward the unlikely, the fantastical, the romantic, and the happily ever after.
I just downloaded a romance about a cowboy and his big-city neighbor. She moved to the wide-open spaces of Montana to escape the wilderness of her fallen-apart life. I'm sure the cowboy will rescue her at some point. Probably kiss her silly, too.
Bring it on, cowboy.
Bring it on.