Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Book Club for the Broken-Hearted?...

I have been reading yet another one of those relationship essay compilation books. I consider it "research" for my own. You know, scope out the competition; see who has already told what incarnation of the bad boy, the virgin, and the first love stories; etc. They're so popular right now I feel like I have to stay up on the trend, lest it change before my eyes and before I have a chance to saturate the market with my own version! The one I am currently reading features one story from about fifty-eight (specific!) different women, all bad break-up tales, usually in which the women reflect not on how stupid the guy was but how stupid they, themselves, were for being with him/staying with him for so long/ignoring, rationalizing, or otherwise placating their behavior. It is called "What Was I Thinking: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories."

This is not one of the newer books on this subject, but it just happened to be the last one I picked up from a now-defunct stack. They say you only really learn about life through relationships, and I find that is true both of my own personal ones but also by proxy, through others'. I mean, going out on a date with a single dad, sure, but a single dad who is also an convicted felon twice over? I have absolutely no desire to check that one off any bucket list!

Anyway, this book in general is super depressing. Maybe it's the constant barrage of ridiculous event after ridiculous event-- all being told by professional and seemingly well put-together women who should know better. Usually these relationship books are told from one woman's point of view, so it is a mix of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the hopefully forever. This one just features the middle descriptions, though. Dude who walks out on wife with newborn? Check. Dude who refuses to celebrate any of the major gift-giving, commitment-expecting holidays? Check. Dude who is seeing someone else on the side? Check, check, check! Dude who is sweet, mature, responsible, and patient enough to put up with the growing up the women may still need to do? Nowhere to be found.

It shouldn't be a surprise, given the title, and I'm well past the age where I look to media (fictional or otherwise) to find examples of loving relationships I hope will withstand the test of time so I can have hope that I can one day, too, find something similar anyway. But I'm still human, and I'm still a woman, and I still need to see some light streaming in through the cracks in the heart.

This is a hard book to get through-- not because it's terribly long or dense. It is actually quite the opposite; in fact, some chapters are less than two pages long-- shorter than most of my usual blog posts! But it's emotionally draining due to the weight of all of the issues behind all of the experiences-- even in the few cases when the writers try to dress them up with bits of humor. And it definitely wants to make me take another look at my own manuscript, to make sure that I don't come off seeming as out of tune. Fragility and vulnerability is one thing; those are traits that draw an audience in because it makes the writer feel more real and more accessible and more relatable. But completely oblivious to the way you act, let alone come across, is something that can be equally alienating. When we're stuck inside our own heads, our thoughts control us-- and we all know how biased our own thoughts can be!!

Anyway, now I, too, am looking for something a little more fun and upbeat (though equally "light" reading) with which to move on. Recommendations are welcome. Loaners are even better!! Leave your thoughts in the comments!

1 comment:

Heather J. Chin said...

Be careful not to change your manuscript so much that it feels purposely contrary to the other stories out there, at the expense of the truth therein. I've found that sometimes, reading things and letting it stew in my head and comparing it to my own thoughts is just as messy and confusing as not having read those other opinions at all.

That said, are you looking to stick to nonfiction or fiction for your upbeat titles? I have way too many dusty stacks here that need browsing through.