What do you think about when you pick up a story? I hesitate to say ‘pick up a book’ because stories are accessed in many ways today. The most obvious answer is entertainment, a peek at, and an opportunity to enter someone else’s world for a while. To become a part of another experience and by the time the last page is perused a sigh perhaps of satisfaction, or frustration, or contemplation.
Most of us have favorite authors we depend on, knowing what we will get, not necessarily in the events contained within, but a guarantee of familiarity. What I like to think of as the Comfort Food of literature. Some of you follow the top sellers keeping abreast of what’s in, providing opportunity for new experiences and thoughts. I make it a point during my weekly library trips to include new authors, at least to me, and when a book is recommended by a friend, I read it. I am not much for romantic themed or erotic stories and therefore have never read Fifty Shades of anything, the series that brought shades of education and blushes to the cheeks of females who otherwise may never have admitted publicly taking delight in sexual adventures. When pressed by many acquaintances to at least give a read, my response has consistently been that I do erotica, I don’t read it. Ha Ha. Whether that is true or not is not for discussion, but it was a glib enough response to satisfy and take the encouragers off on another path.
My Comfort Food Fiction list is fairly extensive and is the source for rereads as well as waiting in anticipation for the next volumes to appear. Included are Koontz, Crichton, King, Cussler, Meyers, Rowling, Buck, and Dickens. Of course those that have passed on can only stand as rereads and that is fine.
Comfort is hard to come by with a few authors and yet I embrace them heart and soul. Reality in fiction can be sad, even depressing but the struggle, or rather surviving the struggle is a story worthy of notice. I wonder in this western culture of pursuing happiness, if we have done ourselves a disservice and weakened our ability to survive by believing that happiness is indeed the gold ring of achievement and not survival itself.
Reynolds Price wrote a book published in 1998 called Roxana Slade which was referred to me by a friend. It almost seems that this man merely channeled the voice of Roxana who at ninety odd years relates her life tale and takes you, the reader on a journey of struggle, loss, and survival. His (the author) is so skilled that you quickly embrace Roxana and fold her being into your existence. Whenever I put the book down for a bit, the characters and situations stayed with me, and I found myself thinking about them throughout the day until I could again curl up and turn another page. Now that is amazing writing.
I have another favorite author that I simply cannot allot to my Comfort Food Fiction list, and that is Patricia Cornwell. Her Scarpetta Series and characters are as familiar to me as my own family, but I seldom feel a sense of comfort. The most recent read is ‘dust’.
Cornwell is a must for me even though I know there will be questions, anxiety, and frustration from time to time. All of her characters are flawed and not in the cute little way popular fictional hero characters are flawed but overcome, but in a haunting kind of way that strikes me at times as too real.
As a Chief Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta always has a mystery to solve but the story is more about the struggles and survival of our characters, the things they battle internally to still carry and on and succeed. People get unjustly fired, are not well liked, have struggles with what they wish life was like and is not. Justice does not always prevail. Solving the mystery, catching the bad guy is often anticlimactic to the process, the living, the surviving.
Frankly, for me, experiencing the discomfort of some of these stories, the reality and the survival helps me keep my own reality in perspective. There are sad, bad, unjust, horrible things in life. But there is much more to be valued.
Have you found the same thing? What do you get out of Fiction? Why do you read Fiction?