Reading Is Bliss
I'd like to start today's post by asking for a moment's silence for Doris Lessing, the Nobel Prize-winning author of the groundbreaking experimental novel The Golden Notebook, and many, many other fine books. Doris was 94 slipped away peacefully into that dark night. A few years ago, upon learning that she had won the Nobel, the-then 88-year-old's first reaction was: "oh, christ". Yes, a fine writer and thinker indeed, whose influence shall be sorely missed.
Moving on to today's actual blog topic...I was drawn to this article about the biggest heartbreakers in literature. I thought it was a pretty thorough list, but have a few of my own to add. I will also admit to wanting to dabble in writing something a little lighter and more fun after the sad, sad news about Lessing. Trying not to steer away from thoughts of how I'd feel if this was Margaret Atwood.
Josephine March from Little Women
While there were many things to admire about Jo - her love of books, strength of character, quirkiness and determination to forge her own path in life, she still broke Laurie's heart. Her "dear, sweet boy", and inadvertently insulted him as well, by implying that he was shallow and all about the looks: "you'll get over this after a while, and find some lovely, accomplished girl who will adore you, and make a fine mistress for your fine house". Just woman up and tell the boy you don't feel the same way and leave it at that, jeesh! Also...LAURIE, I'LL MARRY YOU AND BE THE MISTRESS OF YOUR FINE HOUSE!
Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games
Putting aside Team Peeta or Team Gale for a moment...Katniss rejected Gale for totally douchey reasons! He wasn't her sister's keeper. She also blew hot and cold with him throughout the series, playing the ultimate game of "come here, now go away", what with the kisses and letting him take a beating for her, but ultimately running off with Peeta because she believes they're too similar. She should have taken Pa Gerald's advice from Gone With the Wind, when he tells Scarlett, "like must marry like, or there will be no happiness".
There have been a fair few Shakespearean heartbreakers, but none bigger than Othello. Our favourite Moor killed his wife because he suspected her of having an affair. His iron-clad proof? A handkerchief. For crying out...! Desdemona defied her family and ultimately society to marry for love, and her reward was to be physically abused by her husband in public, then smothered in bed.
I have always thought holiday gift guides were lame. It's not that I don't appreciate some inspiration on what I can get that cousin of a friend of a friend for Christmas - but that the entire idea has been co-opted by advertisers.
Seriously, advertisers and marketers LOVE holiday gift guides. They cottoned on early to the fact that people are inexplicably drawn to lists. If you don't believe me, just look around the internet. Top 10 this, top 5 that, 18 reasons this, 25 ways that, and so on...
I'm not entirely opposed to being sold things. It's how people make a living, and there's a shameful part of me that thrives on consuming. I spend an inordinate amount of time browsing for clothes and literary treasures online. I have my eye on several books, an iPad cover that looks like a book, literary quote t-shirts, and a reading light shaped like a lantern.
So in that spirit, whenever I'm asked about what books I would recommend people buy for their loved ones for [insert celebration here], I now say "don't buy them a book".
We've all encountered heartbreak before, in many guises and forms, from the searing hot iron pain that is the breakup of a romantic relationship, to the slow surrealism that comes with the death of loved ones, the end of a friendship, betrayals of trust, and everything else in between.
So today's post is appropriately about the literature of heartbreak. More specifically, the books that will help you cope with the emotional turmoil that occurs when life unexpectedly comes crashing down.
I've tried to explain why or how I think they can help beneath each title.
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
I know that Mitch Albom is the Emperor of Cheese, but he does excel at this particular genre of uplifting fiction. This book is good for when you're so, so low and down in the dumps that you can't even muster up the energy for cynicism. It is a book that will make you cry, but you'll want to anyway and this is as good an excuse as any. It will also make a tiny little corner of your heart perk up at the thought that perhaps it is true that nothing is ever forgotten, and that no good deed, no matter how small, goes unnoticed.
The Brief History of the Dead
If you've ever been touched by death, this book will help you make some sense of your grief. It doesn't matter what religious denomination (if any) that you are. I'm largely an atheist, with an agnostic bent, and I took the story to be an allegory about the process of dying. Kevin Brockemeier has an interesting view on the afterlife, but what you'll take away from this is the comforting sense that we are all never truly alone, and that no love is ever in vain.
I've been inspired by this list of the 23 best parts about being a book lover to come up with my own list of the happiest moments of being a reader.
Space and quiet are the two things that all readers cherish. Reading requires solitude (and fortitude, but we'll get to that). But I think most readers would agree with me that being able to carve out pockets of solitude, by tuning out the world and getting lost between the pages of a book, is one of the most cherished things about being a reader. I know that noise makes it difficult to concentrate when I initially start reading something, but once I get absorbed into the story, it's like I've locked myself into a bubble - and nothing else exists but me and my book. Bliss.
Lying down while reading
In bed, on a couch, on the sand, on the grass, underneath blue sky and sunshine. Being able to lie down while still being intellectually stimulated, imaginatively engrossed and creatively blown away is one of the best things about being a reader. How many non-readers can work away on their hobbies while lying down and in a state of relaxation? Some may call it laziness, but I prefer to think of readers as people who like gentle, docile activities on the outside, but are hardboiled adventurers on the inside.
The day after All Hallows, when kids are waking up with high fructose corn syrup hangovers from cheap candy and parents are waking up with lack-of-sleep hangovers from squeezing themselves and their offspring into cheap polyester costumes that are but poor imitations of the real thing.
It would be the perfect time to talk about my favourite spooky stories. Or literary villains. But I've written about them before in previous posts, and shall say no more till there is fresh ground to cover.
I have decided to dedicate today and this post instead, to one of the best characters of all time - Severus Snape. The Harry Potter series began when I was but a wee, wide-eyed high schooler in Doc Martens and perfectly ironed uniform, with quiet rebellion in my heart.
I started out, like many others, intensely disliking Snape. Who was this snarled-browed, dark-eyed, bitter wizard who had such a deep capacity for cruelty and a seemingly bottomless well of hatred for Potter?
But then slowly, a kind of grudging respect for his mulishness crept in. If Snape had seemed somewhat like a caricature at the beginning, J.K Rowling very quickly turned this around and he developed into a unique and intensely individualistic character.
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