Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Misery Loves Company?

I’m not into misery. That why I didn’t read Stephen King's book of that name.

I don’t want to read books about people (or critters) being miserable unless there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (pardon the cliché) and non-miserable parts balance out the miserable parts. Consequently, I won’t read about domestic violence, child abuse, or animal cruelty.

At an open mike session at a writers’ conference a few years ago, a victim of domestic violence read her ten minutes-worth of unpublished blow-by-blow description of an abusive husband’s treatment of his wife (her?) Those of us in the audience winced, but the reader/author never once looked up. She wanted her book published because “people need to know this stuff.” Maybe so, but will people buy it in book form? I won’t. I don't want to read about misery.

I recently tried to read Angela’s Ashes. (Yeah, I know I’m a bit late and that almost everyone in the civilized world read it a few years ago.) Granted, the book is well-written in a distinctive voice. I could see why it won the Pulitzer. But I couldn’t finish it. Too much unrelieved misery.

Same thing for Gap Creek. Several years ago, I made it about three-fourths of the way through. Again, great writing, distinctive voice—but too much misery. I couldn’t finish it.

I know some folks who believe that like attracts like—i.e., if we’re surrounded by misery, odds are good we’ll also be miserable. I don’t know if I believe that or not, but I do know that while reading Angela’s Ashes, three miserable things happened to me. Well, not hugely miserable. More like mildly miserable. And they could have been a lot worse.

Last Tuesday, when my husband and I returned from the grocery store (Senior Citizens’ Day!), the engine light came on in my car and it sort of bucked once. But we made it home OK. Before we took the groceries in, however, we stopped at the barn to check the horses (who were fine). Then the five-year-old PT wouldn’t go into reverse. Then it wouldn’t go into drive.

Luckily we were in our driveway and not on the highway. According to a mechanic, the transmission imploded. A week later, my PT is still awaiting a transplant while we negotiate about the warranty. The local 5-star dealership doesn’t want to honor the 8 year/80,000 miles Powertrain Warranty that the original 5-star 8-Year dealership (no longer in business) gave us.

Thursday, after I’d mopped some floors, I slipped on a still-wet place in the bathroom. When my left hand hit the tile wall, I was pretty sure it was broken (the hand, not the tile). I iced it, but it swelled to the point that I couldn’t use my fingers and it hurt.

At the local Immediate-Care place (don’t get me started on the four-year-old who was bouncing/stomping around the room so much the furniture vibrated) where we went because the 4th of July celebration in town would have made going to the emergency room next to impossible (yeah, I know it was the 3rd, but that’s when the 4th is celebrated in Rocky Mount), I had to wait several hours because only one doctor was on duty.

Anyhow, after waiting almost three hours, X-rays showed I only had no broken bones—only a bad sprain. Unfortunately, the elderly doctor couldn’t figure how to bandage my hand without making it hurt worse (the wrist brace they finally gave me at least held the tongue depressor in place to stabilize my little finger—and I had to ask for the tongue depressor). At home, I figured out a better way to pad my hand using vet wrap and masking tape. Now only the little finger doesn’t quite work, and even it’s getting better.

This Tuesday—yesterday—we were en route to Kroger in Ol’ Blue, my 1994 truck which has run pretty well most of its 140,000+ miles. We were about halfway to Rocky Mount when Ol’ Blue groaned a few times and bucked to a stop. Restarting attempts were unsuccessful.

Luckily, we were beside Rocket Lube (an auto repair shop!) when Ol' Blue had his seizure, and the mechanic (who was probably distant kin to me) could look at the truck right away. Luckily, the shop had an air-conditioned waiting room—a big plus on a hot, sultry day with thunder storms in the forecast. The mechanic determined it was the fuel pump, said they could get one by tomorrow, and a woman in the office gave us a ride home. I got Ol’ Blue back this afternoon and he runs fine.

So—at the moment I’m not reading any more books about misery. Just in case. . . .



Blogger Amy Tate said...

I completely agree. Maybe that's why I'm so into Children's Lit, and CLEAN romance. I like happy endings, and I love a good cry...because it's touching not miserable. We have enough misery in the world without adding more to it. I do hope your PT Cruiser gets the attention it deserves, and I'm very glad your hand healed and you're typing again.

5:10 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Glad the hand is better, anyway.

I don't like to read a lot of misery either; I've had plenty in my own life. Don't need any more.

But I don't think reading the book brought you your bad luck. Just timing.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Sally said...

I don't like animals in dire straits. I'm one of those folks who screamed in the movies and covered her eyes when the cattle and cowboys and their horses ran over the cliff and landed dead in a heap in the ravine. I didn't care about the cowboys, just their horses. I don't like unhappy endings. So a huge "yay" for your truck!


9:38 PM  
Blogger Amy Hanek said...

I am not a big fan of misery with no reason behind it, but I have enjoyed some of the books you mentioned. Misery and Gap Creek were very good.

My mother would probably agree with you. She had to leave in the middle of the movie, "Dances with Wolves" when the wolf was in danger. She was sure the wolf would die and couldn't watch anymore.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

I was going to ask where the Immediate Care place is but after hearing your experience, forget it!

Well, at least you break down in convenient places!

I don't know why, but I actually like books that are sad and disturbing. I loved Misery.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Rising Rainbow said...

i rarely read books at all anymore but if I did it would be horse books and kids lit.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Roanoke RnR said...

If it's just not a "woe is me" book then I'm okay with misery. Actually maybe a little more than ok...a little dark humor goes a long way with me. Also, if I read how something or somebody made someone else miserable it might make me not fall into that same trap, so it could actually be beneficial. Of course it has to be well written. For me a light at the end of the tunnel is nice, but not always necessary.

8:45 PM  

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