9/16/13

Reading happy endings


I studied English in college. I did lots of reading, and I was lucky enough to go to a university (and choose classes) that mostly emphasized the best that literature has to offer.

Sometimes I feel judgmental when I review a book negatively because it's profane or immoral or depressing. After all, there are people in the world like that, who go through those things, right?

This week, I came across the following quote from a blog post that rang true for me (except that I'm Mormon, not Catholic). 
"But for me, you don't make me feel edified and empowered, you just make me feel confused and icky and bummed out. I don't like it. As Catholics, we believe in happy endings. We believe in the happiest ending of all. So stories that end with their characters still stuck in the miry clay feel hollow and unfulfilling and only partially true to me. " —Kendra Tierney, Catholic All Year, "An Open Letter to Breaking Bad and Flannery O'Connor "

Yes, that's it! I feel "icky" after I read something that highlights the worst in life. And no wonder! I believe that God created us to attain our best, and that "icky" feeling is God's nudging that this is a place I don't need to be.

Here is a much older quote by one of my favorite authors that I came across a few years ago:
“For every bad man and woman I have ever known, I have met . . . an overwhelming number of thoroughly clean and decent people who still believe in God and cherish high ideals, and it is upon the lives of these people that I base what I write. To contend that this does not produce a picture true to life is idiocy. It does. It produces a picture true to ideal life; to the best that good men and good women can do at level best.

"I care very little for the . . . critics who proclaim that there is no such thing as a moral man, and that my pictures of life are sentimental and idealized. They are! And I glory in them! They are straight, living pictures from the lives of men and women of morals, honor, and loving kindness. . . .

"Such a big majority of book critics and authors have begun to teach, whether they really believe it or not, that no book is true to life unless it is true to the worst in life.” —Gene Stratton-Porter, Gene Stratton Porter: A Little Story of Her Life and Work

While I recognize that hard, evil, and disturbing things happen on this earth (and I'm not trying to bury my head in the sand and pretend they don't happen), I've decided that I'm going to spend most of my time reading literature that uplifts and inspires me. If it's too profane, too depressing, too disturbing, even just over-the-top fluffy, I'm not going to waste my time on it. I only have so many hours to read, and I want to spend them well!

That doesn't mean that I'm going to stick exclusively to classics and non-fiction. Although I love both, I also read for relaxation and escape, and sometimes after a very full day of child-wrangling, house-cleaning, and general running around, I'm not quite up for Dickens, and I'm okay with that.

I've been realizing in the past few years how much the books I read as a child have shaped me. The books I read as a child have made me braver, smarter, more resourceful, more respectful, more grateful. They're like old friends I can come back to any time I need them.

Now I'm an adult, and the books I read still influence me. So many books for adults are insidiously naughty, if not vulgar, foul, or downright pornographic. I don't want mainstream adult content to shape my adulthood, so I can guarantee you that the next book I finish will be chosen carefully to leave me standing a little taller, working a little harder, prioritizing a little better, or seeing life a little more clearly.


I welcome your comments on this subject: I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I still don't feel that my thoughts are quite complete.

11 comments:

  1. Gene Stratton Porter is one of my favorite authors too! Great quote.

    I don't even bother browsing the adult sections of the library. It's too hard to find anything that isn't foul. I agree that a positive, uplifting, inspiring book is best. Les Miserables broaches some tricky topics, but does not dwell on them and is such an uplifting story! You can bring up some of life's tough subjects without making them the focus of the story or even giving them more than a passing glance.

    I have seriously regretted several books I've had the misfortune of reading in the past several years. Hunger Games, Twilight, and The Help are some books I thought were AWFUL and I can't believe I ever read them. Urgh. I'm more careful now and I usually just stick with classics unless I really trust the person who recommended a book to me. I think I've read a book or two you listed on your book list. I trust your book picks! ( :

    Oh, I did just read a good book the other day that was actually an average adult book. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It was pretty cute and any negatives were overpowered by the positives.

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    1. I've had a few misses in the last few months—it's hard when a book is newly released and none of my friends have read it yet. Grr.

      I'm still not sure what to think about The Help, which I read recently. I thought it had a good overall message and I learned a lot of positive things from it, but it had a few things in it that I definitely didn't appreciate. I guess it wasn't a total waste of time, but I'm not going to read it again.

      I've checked out Hunger Games and Twilight from the library but have never been able to bring myself to read them. I just know I won't like them.

      I'll have to read The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

      I've stopped randomly browsing the library's adult section too: I'll only check out authors I know and trust, or I do my browsing on Goodreads, where I can read others' reviews before I try a book.

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    2. Hmmm...I had not considered 'The Help'. I loved that book because my late Mother-in-law was raised by a most beloved black maid. She was a part of her family and when segregation started and they were out with their maid the first time and encountered a 'Whites Only' sign it absolutely broke my MIL's heart. Right up until she died she would tear up when she talked about that day. Understand that I do not agree with the way many black maids were treated but I also feel that it is history and we can all learn from it.

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    3. There were some good things in The Help, but I found once scene to be pornographic and absolutely unnecessary to the story. I also despised the way the white woman ended up being the one who saved the day instead of the black women taking care of it themselves. It's complicated, but it just kinda bothered me that yet again, it was the white woman saving the day for those poor black women. I've been looking into other books that tell about that time period that don't stoop to those kinds of things.

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    4. Wow, Holly, I can't believe I forgot about that part! You're right, it wasn't necessary to the story—the author definitely could have made the same point in a different way. Grr!

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  2. Err.. Then.. lol. I emailed you with a memoir I wrote in an attachment. Don't read it now. It's pretty depressing. Have a lovely week. (love ya)

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    1. You're funny Danielle! I will still try to read it when I get the time. I'm not trying to ignore reality. :)

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  3. So true.. I had rather read uplifting books.. Life has too many tragedies in it, to add more to it.

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  4. Ditto to this post and Sew Blessed Maw. I cannot read books that leave me down and hurting and doubtful. I read to be edified, uplifted, educated, and to escape a little bit. You wrote, "I only have so many hours to read, and I want to spend them well!" I agree!!

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  5. I am the same as you. I always draw the line at reading books about cheating husbands and wives. I absolutely do not need to fill my head with that. There are too many good books to waste my time on literature that pulls me down and makes me think on things that I do not believe are right.

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  6. I know you know what a huge fan of the Little House books I am. It's important to me to read and watch things that make me feel strong, hopeful and competent. I also do not enjoy hopeless, stories full of desolation. My husband enjoyed Breaking Bad, but I finally had to ask him if we could please stop watching it. It just made me sad. I kept waiting for the guy to get his life back on track and everything to be okay. Guess that wasn't the plan.

    It seems like books should be a place where everything will be okay. Bad things might happen, and that can be exciting, but I want to open up a book and be in a world where everything is okay. It may be naive of me, but that's my world view. My faith teaches that everything will be okay in the real world, so that's the kind of story I like to read. It's good to have the reminder and reinforcement sometimes.

    I think about that adorable book about household frugality that we read for your online book club we read sometimes. I love those kind of books! I wish I could find more fictionwith thinly veiled household management instruction. ;)

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