Is it just me, or are the subjects of books more depressing than ever these days? As examples, listed below are the descriptions — from the publishers — for some of the Early Reviewer books from LibraryThing for August 2009. These books will be released either at the end of the month or soon after.
“…Leaford, Ontario — home of Rose and Ruby Darlen, the sorrowing parents of Larry Merkel, and not far from Rusholme where Addy Shadd once looked after an abandoned child — love and grief combine to awaken an obese woman from her loneliness. When her husband doesn’t come home on the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, Mary Gooch, who has never learned to be self-sufficient, sets out on a truly remarkable journey of self-discovery that takes her first to the big city and then to another country.”
“…a haunting tale of love and tragedy. Marly is a young woman struggling to deal with her emotions and depression in a small, grey town. She longs to be anywhere else, retreating into daytime tv and her idyllic childhood dream-world of horses and white cottages by the sea. For her devoted fiancée David, this means a life of hard work, supporting the love of his life financially and emotionally. But as Marly begins to find her feet in reality and hope for a brighter future, time may be running out for David.”
“In this inventive collection of stories, Chris Adrian treads the terrain of human suffering—illness, regret, mourning, sympathy—in the most unusual ways. A bereaved twin starts a friendship with a homicidal fifth grader in the hope that she can somehow lead him back to his dead brother. A boy tries to contact the spirit of his dead father and finds himself talking to the Devil instead. A ne’er-do-well pediatrician returns home to take care of his dying father, all the while under the scrutiny of an easily-disappointed heavenly agent. With A Better Angel’s cast of living and dead characters, at once otherworldly and painfully human, Adrian has created a haunting work of spectral beauty and wit.”
“The definitive history of the self-destructive lives—and tragic deaths—of rock and roll’s greatest icons: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, and Jerry Garcia. The Rock & Roll Book of the Dead show there’s more hell than heaven in real stardom. Drawing on extensive research and groundbreaking details of these icons’ deaths, David Comfort’s exposé sheds new light on the tragic price of fame. Each chapter traces one of these seven artists’ lives, from their childhood traumas to their fatal attractions, and shows how much they had in common, as if cast in the same essential mythic legend.”
“Her body was found in a Dumpster. But one look at the victim told Hart and Tain that this would be no ordinary investigation. There were details eerily similar to the first case that they had worked on together, a search for a terrifying murderer called the Missing Killer. And when they saw the victim’s face they realized something else—this woman was the only one to escape the Missing Killer with her life. But Hart, Tain and Nolan solved that case almost two years ago. The killer is dead. Isn’t he? Is someone out to finish what the Missing Killer started? Or did they get the wrong man?”
Now, honestly, do you REALLY want to read any of these? I actually had a difficult time finding any on the entire page of 64 books — with the exception of children’s books — that were upbeat and positive. Amoung the vampire, murder, Holocaust, and teen pregnancy stories, there were a few shining examples of optimism: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (HarperCollins), Nappily In Bloom by Trisha R. Thomas (St. Martin’s Griffin), and especially Beauty Pearls for Chemo Girls by Marybeth Maida and Debbie Kiederer (Citadel Press), a beauty book for chemotherapy patients, which I suppose could be considered the epitome of optimism.
I realize that human nature wires us to be entertained by the macabre, but I also like to be reminded of the beauty in the world and the happiness in life, and even to escape to other places and times. Not that my own life is miserable, by any means, but why focus on the negative all the time?
I’m not hiding my head in the sand, either. I agree that it’s important to be aware of current events and human faults. As a history fan, I realize not all stories have happy endings, and although I despair of people (in general) ever learning from their past, I still have hope.
My eclectic taste in books is proof of my vast interest in life. But new books are concentrating on the dark side a little too much for me.
© Jan McClintock of We Need More Shelves