My Reading Hang-Ups

I’ve often said that life it too short to drudge through books that don’t grab you. I already I have a pile waiting to be read and can’t be bothered forcing myself through a book if it’s not making me feel something. Then there are those books that make me feel too much, in a bad way. Over at The Guardian UK book blog, Imogen Russell Williams writes about the books she’s ashamed to admit she just couldn’t finish because the subject matter was too painful. These literary hang ups include the rape of Tess in Hardy’s classic and the injustice delivered in To Kill a Mockingbird.

While I don’t have exactly the same reading hang-ups (To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of my all-time favorite novels), I do have my own. Anything that targets animals or children turns me away. Before I became a mother, I was able to read a lot of books that included child abuse like Maxim Gorky’s My Childhood (I loved it) and the horrific, twisted, and incredible The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks that involved burning dogs and tortured children.

There was one book, however, that I could never get through, before I was even a parent. That would be The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kozinski. It’s hard to believe the man who wrote the wry, witty, and often hilarious Being There wrote this book, filled with such brutality aimed at a little orphan boy that it still makes me shudder. And I get it – the book is a metaphor for humanity’s cruelty, war, etc. but I just couldn’t finish it. I tried though, because Kosinski is a fantastic writer. I even got about fifty pages in, but then had to put it down. I think it was when the ravens started pecking at the boy’s head when I decided enough was enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dark, but there’s a line for me and Kosinski crossed it. Now as a parent, I’m a lot weaker. I have a harder time than I did before with innocents being harmed, namely children and animals. Of course, it’s all in the way the writer tells the story, crafting it so it’s palatable (hence Gorky). However, it’s a matter of taste and there are always those weak spots that some of us possess.

The can be said for films. I still marvel that my husband loved Wolf Creek and Battle Royale. I’d rather sweep the kitchen with a toothbrush than go near either one of those.

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