Somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my mind there is an echo of someone on a desert island in the middle of a vast ocean saying, "Water, water everywhere -- and not a drop to drink."
I'm sure I should footnote that, and I would if I knew who said it.
And yes, I can probably find out who said it on Google, but I don't have time because it is one minute to midnight, and I have to finish this and go to bed so I can get up and go to the dentist.
Life is what happens when you are making other plans -- John Lennon said that (as have I on occasion) -- which is why I am going to the dentist bright and early in the morning.
But I digress.
What made me think about the water quote was that I just spent a week by the water and I had time on my hands and for once I could actually read - for pleasure.
There were plenty of books on the shelves of the house I was staying in. And some of them were really Worthy books.
But honest-to-goodness, there wasn't one I wanted to read.
Because they seemed uniformly to have unhappy endings. They were books about miserable unhappy unfulfilled people who encountered other miserable unhappy unfulfilled people who in the course of the book anguished and sighed and made each other cry and pretty much feel even more awful. And while they might think about doing something about it, life was too terrible for them to manage. And so they didn't. They just got more miserable for 300 or so pages.
And then, at the end, they either offed themselves or sank further into depression. Usually, though, they died. And not believing in the Ever After, in case you wondered.
So much for happily ever after.
And all I could think was, why does anyone read these books?
Because, I guess, they are Worthy. And they are often very well-written by authors with a good command of spare elegant insightful prose. And certainly these books have something to say about the human condition. Without question, they have their place in the pantheon of English and American literature.
But God knows I do not want to read them on vacation.
On vacation I don't want to be reminded about the misery of the human condition. I don't want to read about the plague overtaking the world while time runs out and, in the end, everyone is dead, and won't that just teach us to be better custodians of the earth?
Etc. Etc. Etc.
While I'm not Pollyanna-ish enough to believe that everything is going to be hunky-dory forever, I do manage to keep a reasonably optimistic attitude on life -- even when it sucks.
And I like the books I read to pay lip service to that same notion.
I like stories in which good triumphs over evil. I like characters who strive and struggle and love and believe that they can change. I like to spend time with people who care. They can hurt, they can cry, they can kill (in a good cause) but they had better not be killed.
My emotional landscape -- in the books I write and the books I like to read -- doesn't allow that. It isn't part of the bargain I make with a writer whose book I take off the shelf and agree to spend time with. It isn't part of the bargain I make with readers who buy my books.
Is that unrealistic? Probably.
I don't care. I can't control real life. Not enough of it anyway. But I can control what I read.
I'm not in high school anymore. I'm not taking The Nineteenth Century British Novel. I'm not signed up for Modern Drama.
I don't even belong to a book club because I don't like to talk about books. I like to read them. And books with "questions to think about" at the end of them make me grind me teeth.
So I took one look at all the books on the shelves and I went to the bookstore where I bought books that I wanted to read -- books that might be classed as 'popular fiction' (as if it were a bad word -- or two bad words), but IMHO, books that would feed my spirit, not depress the heck out of me.
I came back with several.
I read The Bourne Sanction (bodies, bodies everywhere. But definitely not Jason Bourne's).
I read Gabriella Herkert's Catnapped and Doggone (more bodies, but Sara and Connor were still alive at the end).
I read Janet Evanovich's Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie, Joe, Ranger and Grandma -- even Rex the hamster stayed alive). I read Hester Browne's The Little Lady Agency and the Prince (no dead bodies at all).
And I had a great vacation. I felt much happier. Refreshed. Envigorated.
And not only because I got to spend my non-reading time with my one year old granddaughter whose smile could light the world.
So, tell me, if you were on a desert island for a week -- or two -- (without access to my smiling granddaughter, though you're allowed to bring whomever else you want to brighten your life) what sort of books would you bring along to read?
Titles are fine. Authors are good. The type of books you like I especially want to know.
Post a comment and on Thursday Gunnar the Proust-reading dog (whose taste in books does not even remotely reflect mine) will pick a winner who will get a copy of some book of mine with a happy ending -- your choice, as long as I can find it in the attic or on the shelves. Or Proust, if Gunnar will part with it and the winner is of like mind.
Check my blog or here at the end of the comments to see who wins.