Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I Need Soothing Novels

Nicoleandmaggie over at Grumpy Rumblings (the best blogtitle ever) read my mind and asked their readers for ideas for "soothing novels."  I don't know why they are asking for this, but I know why I am interested in this.  The entire world seems to be obsessed with pedophilia, and I need a break.  First, it was this awful Prime Suspect I saw where Ciaran Hinds, who is so fabulous in Persuasion, is this awful man in charge of all these kids and he does awful things to them and he's in league with all these others and it's just terrible.  (I don't usually watch Prime Suspect so I had no context for this, but I know now if someone says they've been transferred to Vice, I need to turn it off.)  There was this one scene with a young man who had lived through it who refused to testify because they'd already ruined his childhood and didn't want them to ruin the rest of his life -- and the guy was a great actor.  He looked so tortured.  I'm a soft touch, but I was haunted by this stuff for ages!  Then I was reading Elizabeth George's Believing the Lie (spoiler alert) which includes among its stories a screwed-up teenage boy who sells himself into pedophilia because he wants to die.  This was me trying to give Elizabeth George another chance after This Body of Death, which included the grisly murder of a baby by children.  I love the Lynley mysteries and think George is a pretty good writer, but did she save the teenage boy before the sodomy?  No, she did not.  Instead, right after.  I don't know what I'm going to do because there is already a new Lynley mystery out.  And I don't think I can give any more of my life to being disturbed and distraught over some fiction meant for entertainment!  And I thought I was safe with Endeavour, but no.  Another pedophilia ring with doctors and others who are entrusted to take care of children and instead are awful.  Just awful.  It's gotten to the point that when I was watching Saving Mr. Banks, the movie about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney, I kept waiting for something awful and inappropriate to happen to Helen, when her beloved father being a terrible alcoholic who dragged his family to the ends of Australia and then died, leaving her with her inept mother, was really bad enough.

I understand that within the context of a murder mystery, which is not exactly focused on the best in human nature, people entrusted to take care of children who violate that trust are perfect villains that the audience will cheer to see dead or caught.  And certainly pedophilia rings are the lowest of the low -- the terrible other in our human imagination.  Yes, I get that.  But I also worry what it means when we unearth this terrible fear we have in service of entertainment.  And as a parent, well, I already want to wrap up my child in bubblewrap.  (Ever see that Simpsons where Homer becomes some child safety guru and changes the swimming pools into jello?  I get that.)  I don't need anything stoking my fear.   

I realize I'm probably alone on this.  What do you expect in murder mysteries anyway?  (I'm glad Miss Marple is back!)  And most people don't watch or read something and then have terrible terrible dreams and loops in their heads that intrude when doing something innocuous like sudoku.  I'm super-sensitive to these kinds of images, and they live on in my head long after the movie's over.  (The Accused screwed me up for a long time. Prince of Tides.  Leaving Las Vegas yucko.  You name it, I probably can't deal with it.  AP wants me to see Natural Born Killers.  Maybe it's a great movie.  Maybe it has terrific themes.  But no.  Just no.  A person I trusted long ago told me I couldn't handle it, and you know what?  It may not be worth the risk.)  This is part of me figuring out my limitations.  I can't just watch movies and enjoy the thrill ride and be done with it when the lights come up.  

So "soothing novels."  I like that.  (Also, a big part of my research and teaching includes reading/teaching about some pretty awful stuff.  So I think I can only deal with the disturbing in that context.)

So:  go over to nicoleandmaggie's and check out the list!  Happy Friday!  Or leave your own suggestions there or here!

(The weather has definitely taken a turn toward the gray and chilly, which is wonderful but it makes me want to stay in all day and think about books when really I have to get AC to his hair appointment.  And today, I promised him and me some Starbucks, which I've been virtuously eschewing in my veganness.  Come on, Earnest!!)        


undine said...

As terrible as it sounds, I think this particular strain in mysteries might be the new extreme thing that's fashionable for writers to write about, the way other extremes (like incest) were a few years ago. I'm speculating based on your post, because I can't read or watch these things without having them crop up and haunt me at 2 in the morning, either.

JaneB said...

They come and haunt me too. Heck, I'm still haunted by a so-called chick-lit book where the 'heroine' left a cat in its travelling box on the balcony because it was howling, and it died of thirst/heat stroke, never mind awful things done to other people.

I like detective stories as described by Nicole and Maggie, where the deaths are kind of tidy and justice both literal and moral is served - the Daisy Dalrymple series are quite good (Carola Dunn- set in 1920s England), but hate the way that many writers seem to have to escalate the awfulness with each new book... WHY? It's so annoying when you think you've found a series of 15-20 books but can't get past the level of ick in book 3 (or think it would be unwise to try).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link!

The first Tommy and Tuppance is free on Kindle (or your other favorite reading device). I suspect the first Hercule Poirot is too but Amazon only offers the 99 cent one that has formatting and figures added. Not that Agatha Christie is always light (The Mirror Cracked and Sleeping Murder are both a bit chilling), but justice is always served.

@Jane B-- it often does seem to be that Book 3 where things go downhill precipitously if they're going to go down. At least that's true in Spec Fic-- book three is generally where the protagonist rapes someone (via Anne McCaffrey) or just goes straight to overt sexism (Piers Anthony) and so on.

What Now? said...

There are all kinds of things that I can't watch or read, because I know that they'll stay with me forever. The little girl who dies in a mafia explosion at the beginning of "The Untouchables," which I saw in high school? Yeah, that still distresses me.

I totally like a cozy mystery, in which only people I don't care about or actively dislike get killed, in a tidy sort of way, and then justice is done. I read all of the Rabbi Small books this summer and found them quite soothing, despite his of-the-period language about women.

Earnest English said...

I feel so much better reading your comments. It's not just me who gets haunted by this stuff! I'm not alone! Thank you so much for that!

On Sunday: Inspector Lewis is back. Please please please writer of Inspector Lewis: no pedophilia, okay?