Two times this year, a book has let me down by not being dark enough. I felt like the authors held back to make things a little more palatable – The main characters got off too lightly. There wasn’t enough at stake. Things resolved themselves a little too neatly.
I don’t like it when a story feels reigned in. I want the characters to hit bottom and keep falling.
I do feel a little guilty about this. Why do I want bad things to happen to good characters, and why do I roll my eyes at a happy ending? Schadenfreude? Shock value? Or, am I not quite over my goth phase of 1996-1997? I think it’s a bit of all of those things. I need an emotional connection to really enjoy a story, and the dark and depressing route is the easiest way to my heart.
Here are the two examples that came up this year, the darker alternatives I found, and even more dark recommendations for the long winter nights ahead. BONUS: All four books featured below are by Canadian authors!
The Idiot is #861 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
First things first. I know that I never post regularly, but this time I have an excuse. An adorable excuse!
With my first son, I didn’t read one word (other than baby books, which, yuck, that’s a whole other post) from about eight months pregnant to six months post partum. I also suffered from a severe case of mom brain. I used to think the whole baby brain/mom brain concept was sexist, but having experienced it, I can say that it’s true – pregnancy and child birth makes you dumber. That’s why I was so determined to reach 100 books, and to make #100 a doozy, before baby #2. I was afraid that this time, it would be worse. I might never read from the list again. I might have to start reading chick lit. Or The Hunger Games. Or 50 Shades of Grey. *shudder*
After triumphing over The Magic Mountain, I put the list aside, and ended up reading some great books (Half Blood Blues, Slammerkin, The Lover’s Dictionary) and some so-so books (The Virgin Cure, The Happiness Hypothesis, Juliet Naked, The Help). (Psst: Hover over titles for mini-reviews.) All this while in the end stages of pregnancy or with a very demanding newborn. And all thanks to TECHNOLOGY!
And I don’t even like my Kobo. The buttons are clunky, it’s slow to load, it’s a base model with no wireless and no touchscreen, and the free books don’t work. It doesn’t have the look and feel and smell of a real book. It makes Jonathan Frazen cranky. BUT I CAN READ WITH ONE HAND. And that has made all the difference in the world.
There is NO WAY I would be reading a heavy, thick book like Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot in traditional form. The only time I get “to myself” is while nursing (if you classify having another human being attached to you as time to yourself) and now I can read!
Until I started The Idiot, I was pretty smug about the mom brain thing – not this time, reading will keep my mind sharp. But the Russian names and complex plotting and character development are throwing me a bit. I’m having a hard time keeping the characters and their motivations straight. So now, I’ve got my Kobo in one hand, and SparkNotes on my phone so I can refer to the character list and read plot summaries. I’m not proud that I need this much help, but, I’m working on the list… on very limited sleep… and feeling pretty good about it.
I need to finish before I can fully comment, but, I’m finding similar themes as in The Magic Mountain – a naive young man meets and unconventional woman; corruption through drinking and disease; you know, light stuff. But more important that the ins and outs of this book – I won’t be an “idiot” on this maternity leave. I’m excited to get through even more great books in between Curious George and Little Critter’s adventures.
“A fool with a heart and no sense is just as unhappy as a fool with sense and no heart.”