Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Navel gazing

I've been thinking about the things I like to read. Of late, my favorite non-fiction usually deals with depravity, drug addiction and various kinds of human suffering. My favorite fiction isn't much better, though with both I make conscious choices to find stuff that is mainstream or useful. I read against what I'm drawn to.

So, why do I like reading about lepers, meth addicts, child soldiers and prison bitches? I don't do it because I like to watch people suffer. It is seldom I am not moved and even uplifted by their survival. It's pretty rare that I seek out something where the author didn't make it through.

Maybe I look for something awful to give context to my own life, to compare it against. I'm not really suffering. I'm not missing meals. Nothing is falling off and no one is threatening to have me killed. My issues are banal: money, relationships, work, self-esteem. Having a clear idea of what real agony is like is a balm against bitching too loudly about your stupid fate. It's pretty easy to tell yourself to shut the fuck up, when it's just dog shit on the floor to clean up and not your own bloody teeth. Worrying about the gas bill is less scary than worrying about getting poked in a prison shower by a nut with the tattoo of Richard Nixon on his stomach. You might feel like a slave at home. You might feel unappreciated, but at least nobody is shooting at you because they think you stole their dope.

It just strikes me as weird. I used to like reading science fiction; happy little tales about fighting for the future. Now, I like books about cannibals. I like books that offer realistic looks at history, where people were often careless, conniving and opportunistic. I like books about environmental disaster and how it's pretty much a given, we're fucked.

The things we read for leisure are the things we dream about. It just seems odd that I don't really dream about the future any more. It feels weird that I want to remember the past as being treacherous.

I guess it could be worse. I could be reading about politics.

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