Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book talk: Reading to avoid reality

The gist of today’s book talk feature (I know, it’s been ages since I’ve done one, hasn’t it?)

Is it wrong to use fiction as a crutch to cope with all the negative things society (and life) keeps throwing our way?


I’ve been thinking a lot about the books that I’ve been reading lately and I’ve come to the following conclusion:

I’m addicted to the happily-ever-after kind of reads.

Now don’t get me wrong - books that are bitter sweet, leave me in an emotional mess or take me out of my comfort zone each have their own kind of allure and often have me waxing lyrical about them; but, today I'd rather  talk about my fixation with happy, sappy, make-you-feel-all-mushy-inside reads.

Just this morning I read a newspaper article that showed the graphic, disturbing and incredibly scary images of a young, beautiful woman who was hospitalised after being viciously assaulted and brutalised by a man she was supposed to be protected from.

Not long after that, I read another article about a blunder that led to a rapist being allowed to walk free. 

It seems that every single day there’s an article about violence and lawlessness increasing, and while I try to be a mostly optimistic sort, sometimes it really, really gets to me.

Compound these feelings with the days when my depression is looming around, and I feel like my insides are taking a one-way ticket to a black hole of nothingness. 

And that’s when I turn to reading.

Now those who know me are very much aware that I love reading, but what many don’t realise is that on the darkest of days, I clutch and cling onto the books that I read with relentless fervour.

I don’t just read to escape, I read because it’s my lifeline.

And it’s on these days that I particularly read the books that are ridiculously, improbably and downright unrealistically romantic, because I know this is where hope is.

I read the fun, make-you-cringe-but-laugh-out-loud reads because if I don’t, those suicidal tendencies that I’ve been battling with for a good number of years, will return with a vengeance.

I gush, I sigh,  I giggle and I squee at the shenanigans of the couple who are in love but who each need a good conk to the head in order for them to realise this. I revel in their happiness and pretend that it’s mine.

When I read such a book, it makes me believe in fairy tales and happily ever after.  Not that I haven’t before, it’s just that dipping into a happy and affirming read reinforces this belief. And it makes me feel better again.

It’s made me wonder, though.

Is it very worrying of me to use happy, shiny reads as a crutch to cope with reality? Is it pathetic of me to be so soft and sensitive?

I know it's not going to go away or get any better, but still I seek the safe solace that reading provides.

Sometimes I think that I spend most of my time just waiting for a chance to get back into the book I’m reading because being in fantasy land is so much better.

But, that's just me.

What are your thoughts on this?

Are you big on happily-ever-after reads? And do you use fiction as a means to escape from the every day things life throws your way?

Disclaimer: This originally appeared as a column on Women24, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.

2 comments:

Jenny said...

"And it’s on these days that I particularly read the books that are ridiculously, improbably and downright unrealistically romantic, because I know this is where hope is."

I'm the same way Tammy! And while I'm not battling anything as serious as I know you've dealt with, I still crave the happy reads on those days when reality reminds me how depressing it can be. I don't think it's wrong of you to use reading as a crutch at all, I think it's healthy - it's something that helps you get back on track when you feel your train start to slide off its rails, and it's something that's not detrimental to your health, so I say keep it up:)

Wendy Darling said...

I'm rather embarrassed to admit this, but I don't keep up with the news much anymore. I used to be a big news junkie, but I've gotten so tired of doom and gloom. Reading books makes me much happier!!

Wendy @ The Midnight Garden