Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo and Escapist Literature

My name is Julia, and I am addicted to escapist literature. I'll read far into the night, even through the night, to get to the end of a story.

Even a cluster of not exceptional YA fantasy stories, like the ones I've recently brought home from the library.

(Librarian: "You know those are from the young adult section?" Me: Blank look.)

Or maybe the stories are good, and I've just had a temporary raising of the bar for books in general, from having finished Abigail Thomas' memoir, Three Dog Life. Which is one of those books full of truth written beautifully, that often made me laugh, about loss of what we know, and loving what takes its place.

Profound, in other words.

Most of what I read isn't profound.


My mother, who worked in a bookstore for part of my childhood, brought home great boxes of books without their covers.

Some of my all time favorite books, of which I know every illustration, I wouldn't recognize on your coffee table at a distance, from never having seen the cover art.

The Changeling, by Zylpha Keatley Snyder, was one of those. I remember that this book meant something. It, too, was about loss, and... um... It's been a long time since I've read it, but I just ordered it through the library so I can share it with my daughter. I really hope it holds up.

Then there were the entire boxes of coverless Harlequin romances from that same bookstore. I read every one. I was fourteen or so. Some of them were weird (bad guy wearing a green monster costume and trying to hunt down the MC and romantic lead, MC emptying her bladder while hiding/hanging under a balcony, having conveniently forgotten to wear underwear?), and most of them were racy, what my aunts called "thigh sweaters".

I wonder if the covers would have put me off?

In Normandy, where for one summer and fall I lived on a farm, I found the WWII era stash of pulp mysteries and westerns in English. I am proud of this: I have read much the oeuvre of Zane Grey, the pulp writer mocked in The Third Man.

I'm not saying the pulp was good, but it went well with the Nutella and tea in my lonely little hut.

Books steal the night, and then there is the next day. Tired often leads to sad and crabby, which is no fun for anyone.

So why do I write escapist literature? It seems like a heck of a lot of real life work put into escaping. Maybe, if I'm around for the next few years, I might try to write something true and beautiful that makes people laugh.

But for this year, I will keep at my unambitious little fantasy novel set, coincidently, near where I read all those Zane Grey novels in France.

Do you, too, write books that might feed escapism? Do you read late into the night? How do you feel about it?

12 comments:

  1. Nothing at all wrong with escapist lit. I enjoy it all myself!

    Happy (Late) Blitz day!!

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    1. Hi Timothy,
      It seems a lot of us do, really. I'm glad you stopped by!
      Julia

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  2. I don't think there's anything wrong with escapist literature. It's what keeps us reading when life isn't beautiful (and it so frequently isn't). Besides, memoir is an older person's game. More life to talk about and memories to share.

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    1. Hi Beverly,
      Thanks for adding your thoughts.

      I guess I made it look like I'm pointing the finger at the escapist literature, when really I mean to be talking about how time passes, and how I choose to pass my time.

      You are right - of course there is nothing wrong with escapist literature!

      What worries me is that I can't put it down to go to sleep. Do you know what I mean? For many creative people, or people with depression or anxiety, sleep can be very important. And yet I cut that time very short. That leads to suffering, both creatively and in terms of general life happiness.

      Misuse of a good thing? Perhaps!

      Take care.
      Julia

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  3. I guess I love the escape that reading and writer offer. In one I let someone take me away from my daily life. In the other I take myself away. Nice combination of experiences.

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    1. Yes, there is tremendous power in being the one taking yourself away...

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  4. Lately, I've delved into writing more escapist literature. Maybe because I have so much "reality" to deal with and have fallen on tough times. Reading--even if it is memoir or truth or even simple blather--is always escapism for me. Lovely post and so nice to meet you. Sorry I missed your Blitz.

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    1. Thank you, Susan.

      You're right, any reading helps with hard times. Reading about Abigail Thomas' experiences with her husband after his car accident did just as much to make my life easier as did reading Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys.

      Take care.

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  5. There's nothing wrong with being in the YA section! I read YA and MG all the time :-)
    As for escapism, here's Neil Gaiman quoting Tolkien on the matter: http://www.newstatesman.com/laurie-penny/2013/11/king-dreams
    What they said :-)

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    1. That was a lovely article. Thank you for sharing it! Good quote from J R R Tolkien: “the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers”

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  6. Escapist literature- I love, love it!

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    1. Yes, me too! It's that simple, isn't it?
      Take care,
      Julia

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