Good morning and welcome to another open forum! Our succession of wonderful diaries contributed by BTCML regulars has apparently ended, so you’re stuck with me again. Today our topic will be books that didn’t change your life because you simply couldn’t bear to read them in the first place.
But first, breakfast! Guess what, today it’s frumenty.
Ha! You knew I’d be offering something weird, didn’t you? The online dictionary defines frumenty as “an old-fashioned dish consisting of hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar.” Quite enough to make one leave home and found an Empire, what? Never mind, I’m sure it tastes better than it sounds.
We have a dish of apple slices, glazed in sweet cider and a little butter, as well as pots of fiercely strong tea to go with it all, so do eat up.
Now, having breakfasted as best we might, considering everything, let us arise and go through the double doors into the salon.
There are books one knows one ought to read. They are classics, the subject of much spirited discussion in cafés and innumerable lit. crit. essays. There’s a whole list of such books on my mental bookshelf—and truthfully, on my actual bookshelf as well—but I can’t read them. Why? Because I know if I did I’d be reduced to floods of tears. Moreover, being one of those people who soaks up other people’s emotions like some kind of super-absorbent paper towel, I know if I read them I’d stay depressed for days and days and days.
The first of these is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I did begin reading it, I really did. But before I’d got very far I began to feel so awful at the thought of the innocent Native Americans being slaughtered that I had to lay the book aside, never to pick it up again…so far.
The reference contained a sentence so horrifying that I cannot even bring myself to type it. You’ll have to read the book review.
Toni Morrison has written several books that are considered landmarks in American literature, including Beloved and The Bluest Eye. I haven't been able to read those either. I've absorbed enough knowledge of their content by osmosis to know they're tragic.
My book-loving nephew asked for Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina for his birthday one year, so I bought it for him; some time after thatI inherited my late mother’s copy of it, but I haven’t read that one either. I’m afraid it might contain horrific accounts of child abuse.
One might argue, with some degree of truth, that it’s irresponsible not to read such works--as irresponsible, probably, as refusing to read or listen to the news for fear of hearing something awful. One can’t do anything about the kidnapping of 300 Nigerian girls, nor the flooding and loss of life in Bosnia and Bangladesh, nor the drowning of high school students in a ferry accident in South Korea. One mourns, of course, but by and large one can do nothing to mitigate such events.
In my own case, refraining from reading the aforementioned books is simply self-protection. I know not to read horror stories because they’ll give me nightmares. I know not to read certain novels because I’ll become depressed.
But what about YOU? Are you braver than I’ll ever be? Do you forge ahead, fully confident that you can read heart-wrenching or gut-wrenching books and emerge with a soul “stirred but not shaken”?
Or do you too have a list of books you know you can’t read without dissolving into tears? Come on, I’ve told you mine--now let’s hear yours!