reading the unexpected

When my brain is fogged, I can watch glossy, fluffy TV.

Grey's Anatomy
Justified
Hawaii 5 0

Undemanding on the brain, and easy on the eye, these are far more manageable than a programme where I have to make an effort. Nothing worthy or subtitled on those days.

So, I’d have thought that the same would apply to reading. Surely something light and drivel-y would be the way to go?

It seems not.

My collection of pulp fiction is of no use to me at those times, and it’s taken me a long time to work out why. Bad fiction requires too much work from the reader. It’s as if my brain is shooting out tendrils which can’t get any purchase on the prose. There’s nothing to grasp on to.

In contrast, I read most of Colm Tóibín’s Empty Family: Stories in a morning at a dance competition last week. Tired me, lots of noise, heavy dancing shoes, children alternately bored, hyper, disappointed, happy. And Colm.  The tendrils were not for loosening.

I was gripped by the short stories. Tales of returning home, of death and a nursing home. Tales of defining oneself apart from one’s people. Powerful tales from an outside. What is ‘home’? Who am I? I’m still processing the line ‘Home is where my dead are.’ You may be surprised to read that these are positive stories, full of love and acceptance, certainly not depressing tales of woe. I didn’t cry even once!

Tóibín is no light and easy writer, but he’s remarkably accessible. Who knew he’d be easier on the brain than plot driven page turners? I’ll save those for when I’m awake.

Pictures from here, here, and here.

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22 thoughts on “reading the unexpected”

  1. Now on my list too – I agree that difference, TV is watchable [and forgettable] when half-asleep anyway but rubbish writing doesn’t work. At least not the romance sort, the utterly idiotic impossible hero like Jack Reacher [Lee Child author] does. Should I admit to this?

  2. I’m completely unfamiliar with the author, but your description of the book is very compelling. I don’t have nearly enough time to read these days, and so the drivel that sometimes is offered to me by friends who think I’d be interested sometimes puts me in a socially awkward moment when I have to simply state I’m NOT. There are authors, like Anne Lamott (who I’m currently reading) who have an easy style with wry and witty cynicisms…skillful writers can make their point without being heavy on the brain! I think you made a great point. And now I’m going to be thinking about “Home is where my dead are…” That is powerful! Debra

  3. Funny, but I can never get on with anything light and fluffy (films, books or whatever) even when my brain is like sludge. My hyper-active critical faculty simply rebels. I agree with TWB, on those occasions I want something that’s easy to assimilate but still intelligent and perceptive. I’m thinking something on the lines of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Some Like It Hot.

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