What We Read Affects Our Moods

chart

Good gravy, I’ve been a bit catatonic these past few weeks, hence the lack of posts. It all started with my reading choices: two John Green novels, in which (spoiler alert) he likes killing off characters, giving them cancer and contemplating death the way sensitive, hormonal teenagers do, which is to say deeply. And I just started Infinite Jest, by rockstar writer David Foster Wallace, who’s prolific enough for me to want to throw myself off a mountain. Do you even know the word count on a 1,000 page book? I’m no math expert, but: 1000 x 250 = a trillion.

I’ll begin with Green, since Infinite Jest will take me a year and six months to finish.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Green. I was moved by The Fault in Our Stars, but I don’t enjoy going back to high school every day, listening to the Cure and the Smiths, contemplating the meaning of our existence when Bob Dylan had the mature adult response: The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. Now go get a job, hippie.

Green had me so depressed, I wrote this in line at the post office while waiting to mail off my tax returns:

The problem with becoming a writer is that you never really feel like one. You question the worthiness to add more words in an over-written society, and if your desires are free of egocentricity and fears of obscurity or oblivion. Even so, how long will that mark last and what is it worth when there’s no real romantic gestures in the soil of reality.

Then I shoved the certified letters at the postal worker and told her to, “Take it all, dammit! What’s the goddamn point to any of it?” 

She gave me $2.43 in change and said, “Next.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I just finished The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. And I guess I fear oblivion.”

“Tax season always brings out the crazies,” she said to her fellow employee. (For this purpose, she has orange hair, blue eyeliner, and dangles a cigarette from her lip-liner mouth, even though our time period will no longer tolerate smoking.)

She was lucky I wasn’t contemplating Wallace, a man as brilliant and thoughtful as he was diseased. I could have launched into his examination of irony in retaliation to sentimentality, both damnable in the serious world of writing; and how we live in a time and culture where we see these extremes beaten into the fabric of life until they are no longer funny or meaningful. Satire is on a laugh track and sentimentality is the syrupy, disingenuous goo that provokes more cynicism. It is the saturated treadmill of pop culture. You know, light reading!

If you want more light reading, Salon had a great piece:

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/13/david_foster_wallace_was_right_irony_is_ruining_our_culture/

That is some seriously depressing crapola.

To maintain a sense of balance, I will read one chapter of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened for every 10 pages of Infinite Jest, while appreciating the irony of his bemoaning our society laughing ourselves into a bland pool of irrelevance.

Yes, I am a deviant. But I have to wash myself of this literary stink.

Here are some pie charts to get me back to happy:

pie-chart

Meme 0171

 

Has anyone read a book that left them in a funk for weeks?

 

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7 thoughts on “What We Read Affects Our Moods

    1. desertdweller29

      Thank you for sending Irvine’s piece! I just read it and while it is depressing, it’s accurate. I was on the publishing side years ago. It’s the dose of reality every write must be aware of…alas.

  1. L. Palmer

    I hate it when books leave me in a funk. Reading a Terry Pratchett book often helps alleviate the problem.
    I think the latest book to bother me was the Life of Pi. It was far more bleak than I was expecting.

    1. desertdweller29

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve picked up a good fantasy to get lost in. I guess it’s good when a book leaves you contemplating deep issues, but sometimes it’s a drag. You definitely have to follow up with something light!

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