I have been adrift all week. It’s the sort of thing that happens these days; I no longer move from “sick” directly to “well” (or an approximation thereof). Instead I pull out of the deep trough of worst disease gradually, with several days of bleak drain pulling me back while my cabin-fevered brain urges me forward.
It’s during these times that I do more reading than others. Not healthy enough to embark on a full life of my own but not sick enough to eschew life in general I borrow someone else’s stories and worlds to buoy me back to normal. I generally re-read books I know at this point, simply because it’s like walking a well-trod path. There are no unexpected deaths or unforeseen heartbreaks that are too jarring and emotionally exhausting. I can skim the boring chapters without missing anything since I already know that the business gets saved, she ends up with him instead of the other guy and the dog doesn’t die at the end. In the last two weeks I’ve reread every Maeve Binchy book written, several Sarah Dessens, two or three Susan Wiggs and chanced a new Sheila Roberts. (Sheila is as comfortable a formulaic writer as you can get. Even when the story changes it’s always three women of varying ages facing difficulty and surmounting it with sisterhood and gumption.)
I tried one new book a couple of days ago. It’s the New Romantic Comedy everyone is talking about–One Day by David Nicholls. Without delving too much into spoiler-land let me just say this. All the Books Everyone Is Talking About this summer are bleak, bleak, bleak messes peopled with unsympathetic asswankers. I wonder–truly and deeply wonder–about the frakked up senses of humour the modern book reviewers possess. Between One Day, The Lonely Polygamist, and Kraken (okay..I love Kraken..but it’s New Weird so it’s excused) all the books the reviewers have lauded as “funny” are only humourous if you are the sort of person who laughs when an old man falls down while carrying a loaded tray in a cafeteria. Sure, there’s humour in the spilling of all that food, but there’s a deeper sadness in the frailty, helplessness and loss that the fellow experiences. I’m the one who cries and then tries to help the old man, so naturally I found all of these books just blinkety exercises in digesting the grimness of humanity.
Still, I am driven by the need to now go someplace NEW. I’ve been back to Binchy’s Ireland, Dessen’s Carolinas, Wiggs’ Lakeshore. I’m better enough to dip the toe into uncharted waters–but where? I’ve been bitten by everything I’ve tried so far. And then last night (or this morning) I realised that I have never ever read Asimov’s Foundations. I don’t know why that escaped me with all the other Asimov I’ve read. Perhaps it’s my long-standing grudge against never-ending Sci Fi “series” and the endless parade of Terry Brooks’ Shannara books that glared out from shelves all my life. Regardless, I decided to rectify that major error. I also decided that if I’m in for a penny I’m in for fifty pounds, so on Jason’s advice I’m diving into David Weber’s Safehold series as well. At least in Science Fiction the bleakness is usually on someone else’s planet. And there are lasers.