Conversations is a bi-weekly meme hosted by Geraldine @Corralling Books and Joan @ Fiddler Blue. Their meme is where I got the name Conversations from, and I will be using their post topics on the weeks they have them. If you want to join then follow the links, they really are great topics.
BUT Conversations won’t be completely based on that meme. Like I said, I will be joining in on their discussions, but on their off weeks, I will be creating my own conversations. This is all in hope that I can create a book blog that does more than just reviews.
This week I will be discussing a topic of my own choosing, inspired by Hollie @ The Hollieblog and her recent post on books with difficult topics. It was also inspired by Jessica Knoll’s book, Luckiest Girl Alive, and her recent open letter concerning the hard topics in her book. But I will get into more of that in a bit. On to this week’s topic:
Loving Books We Shouldn’t Enjoy
Like I said before, Hollie made a recent post on books with hard topics. This post hit home for me because it seems that if I’m going to read anything contemporary (and off my usual fantasy/magic route) then I tend to go for the darker ones that deal with really tough and taboo issues.
This became more evident when I read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I found myself unable to say that I enjoyed the book, as well written and executed as it was. I would feel like a horrible human being if I said I got enjoyment or pleasure from reading a book that dealt with sexual assault, suicide, and attempted murder.
The same goes for It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, a book dealing with depression and suicide (specifically the depression of the author). I feel odd saying I enjoyed it, despite its bouts of often dark humor, because it almost feels wrong to enjoy the dark and twisty mind of a confused and lost teenage boy who wants to end his life.
This brings me to an internal conflict I’ve been having with myself about the book Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. The book was recommended to me last year when it first came out and I didn’t pay it a second thought because it wasn’t in my wheelhouse. Now it’s a year later and I’ve bought the book and am prepared to read it, but why?
The truth is, the book wouldn’t have crossed my mind if it weren’t for the post created by the author on Lenny Letter. This post is a bleeding, gaping heart of honesty into the true insights of what informed the rape that happens in Luckiest Girl Alive. Knoll is brutally and descriptively honest as she reveals, for the first time only a couple of weeks ago, that it was her own gang rape that can be seen in the pages of this book.
So why did I buy the book? Was it because I wanted to hear more about this horrific rape? Or because I’m drawn to the dark and twisty? God, I hope not. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be sick or fucked up.
And honestly, that’s kind of how I’ve felt when it comes to these books that I, yes, enjoy. The dark and messed up crap of life, the mentally ill,the suicidal, the taboo topics of rape and sexual assault.
Those heinous topics draw me in.
And it has taken time for me to understand why, time in which I have hidden my affection for these kinds of books. But the why is simple enough: understanding.
As a reader and a writer, I eat, breathe, and sleep words. They are my life force. If you want to show me love, write me something beautiful from the depths of your soul. If you want me to hurt with you, then I need you to explain the the way you feel in your heart and your skin and your bones, and I promise I will cry along with you.
The authors of these novels are well informed. Whether like Vizzini and Knoll it is from their own experience, or Quick who is an exceptional writer, they create to inform. And I believe books such as these have given me insight into taboo or difficult issues that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about in any deep kind of manner.
When I good writer tackles these subjects, it’s easy to feel right along side with the characters. It has been in these characters’ minds that I have developed a sympathy with the world. I have been in the heads of characters with deep seated issues, in heartbreaking times, and life changing situations.
No, I haven’t been through a lot of it myself, but I have more of a heart towards those who have because of these authors, their words, and their hearts behind their stories.
So maybe I don’t have to be so ashamed to enjoy these novels. I don’t want to be. Instead, I want to be thankful for the authors who have entrusted their stories with us. And I want to use their stories to better my perception on the difficult topics that real life people are facing all the time.
How do you feel about books that deal with the harder topics? Are there any you enjoy or recommend? Join in on the conversation by commenting below or writing your own post and leaving the link in the comments.