Ah, spring has sprung and the sunshine greets me most mornings. It’s the perfect time to pull out those light, happy books that make one think of renewal and rebirth, of the hopeful human experience, (or what I call “frothy spring reading.”)
I would do just that if I didn’t have one small problem: I don’t have many of those books on my shelf.
In fact, I look over the stacks and realize I’m largely uninterested in those light, happy reading romps. For better or worse, I am mostly drawn to the types of stories that incite dark curiosity as opposed to airy revelation. (I admit, revelation is wonderful and heavy and all that, but to some degree it implies closure and a conclusion.) I don’t want to have everything settled at the end of the story, and I certainly don’t want to read about heaving Victorian bosoms as I sip a dainty cup of tea. A grisly murder mystery and my hefty Java Joe is much more preferable on beautiful days like this one. Does that equation seem a little unbalanced? Maybe, but I can’t help it.
Maybe that’s why I find myself reading two nonfiction books that would be better suited for Halloween or a similarly “dark” time of the year when thoughts turn to death, not life. But death, like life, is always with us, and I want to read about it! I have decided to (at least for now) say “no!” to Frothy Spring Reading. It’s funny, this time last year I was reading about Marilyn Monroe, now I’m reading about Gary Gilmore and Lizzie Borden. Oh, what a difference a year makes in our reading lives! (Although the Monroe story ended in mystery as well…)
At the moment I am re-reading Norman Mailer’s 1979 true-crime tome “The Executioner’s Song.” I’ve been reading it slowly since January and I’m in no rush to finish it. Apparently I read this book several years ago but have no memory of most of it! (I guess eventually we have to clean out our hard drive to make room for newer information.) I’m on page 217 of 1,050 so it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint. It is the real-life story of (petty criminal) and murderer Gary Gilmore, and any crime buff must read it. Of course, my brain scans over the “petty criminal” part pretty quickly, because everyone knows those who kill are much more interesting than those who steal or commit fraud. (Or maybe that’s just my humble opinion.) For more information about the book, click here.
The other “light and frothy” read I’m slowly working my way through is Victoria Lincoln’s “A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden By Daylight.” Published in 1967, it’s quite a bit older than I would like but my Lizzie Borden library search turned up only this book and edition. I thought this library selection was a bit paltry, to say the least, for much has been written and speculated about this “axe-wielding” lady. However, the book is moving along swimmingly and I’m right up to the morning of the murders on page 76 of 317. Is it wrong that I like to savor these rather unsavory subjects, murder and evil? Or is it just a healthy human curiosity that I have the option and privilege of fulfilling via literature? (For my sake, let’s go with the latter.) For more information about the book, click here.
Maybe I shouldn’t recommend these books to people who don’t enjoy these topics. I’m by no means trying to convert those “light, frothy” readers to my side of the literary road. However, those who enjoy reading about fictional murderers (such as Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s works) might consider this: the inspiration behind a fictional work often originates in the “stranger than fiction” category of, you guessed it, real life.
Isn’t that scary-cool, and isn’t it awesome that we can indulge in these worlds at our leisure as readers? I think so. I am encouraging Fellow Readers everywhere to pick up some gore (fictional or otherwise), and immerse themselves in an alternate (and appalling) world for a change. These journeys are readily available; just grab one and enjoy!