to read "misery lit"

(158 Posts)
shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 13:38:53

Is that the correct term for it?

I have just finished reading a book, about someone who suffered childhood abuse, that somebody passed on to me. I know there is a hatred of such books by many people.

Whilst it would not be my first choice of book, I must admit that I "enjoyed" it. It made me sad and I did actually have tears in my eyes at one point.
Reasons I have occassionally read them/watched sad films.

1. It is important that people are aware that this sort of thing went on/goes on.
2. It is important that people have some ability to empathise (although I know you obviously can't really understand unless you have gone through it yourself).
3. I get a positive emotion from it, in that I feel grateful for the life that I have led and feel very lucky. There for the grace of God goes I...

I am prepared to get a flaming for this, But I am genuinely interested in why it is supposed to be so popular, and what other people think of it.

doingthesplitz Mon 01-Jul-13 14:19:31

YANBU but I have to say I really don't understand the popularity of these books.

I can understand someone reading one or two but some people seem to snap up every tragic true story and get stuck in. I just don't get it. I also hate when I go into a bookshop and there's a whole section full of these books, with titles like 'Daddy's little Princess', 'No, Daddy, No' etc. Ugh! It's like some people think it's some form of entertainment and not a horrific abuse.

NinaHeart Mon 01-Jul-13 14:23:51

I also hate the one writte4n by the brother, uncle, milkman, ex-corner shop assistant of the abuse. Bandwagon jumping, no?

I have read one of two books of the genre, but don't find them at all entertaining (are they meant to be?) and usually formulaic.

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 14:26:23

I agree. It seems to have been turned into an industry, which is pretty distasteful. I've also read of a few cases where family members have totally disputed the author's version of events. And I am sure there are many more who don't particularly want their unhappy childhood out there as entertainment for the masses. Even where names are changed it is unlikely that in an entire book you are not going to include details which will totally give away who the family involved are.

squoosh Mon 01-Jul-13 14:33:03

I think a few important abuse memoirs were written, publishers recognised a hot trend and then churned out countless tacky books in that genre. They always have titles like 'Please stop Daddy'. I think they fetishise abuse and neglect.

I would wonder about someone who read misery book, after misery book after misery book.

So YANBU to read one of these books but YABU to become enthralled with the genre.

squeakytoy Mon 01-Jul-13 14:35:18

So many of these books have been discredited as being a fantasy of the authors imagination, probably because as a previous poster said, it turned into a lucrative bandwagon.

Gruntfuttock Mon 01-Jul-13 14:38:48

I get upset when I accidentally read a headline about a child being hurt, and never read the article for all the details, so I certainly wouldn't choose to read a whole book about it.

Dirtymistress Mon 01-Jul-13 14:39:13

You can read what you like. It's a phase, eventually you'll get bored and want to read something better. Misery memoir is the correct term.

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 14:42:23

I agree with pretty much all of you. But somebody keeps them in business.

Pagwatch Mon 01-Jul-13 14:45:35

Well you do, don't you?

I was abused throughout my childhood and to be honest they fuck me off.
People getting teary eyed for a frisson of rather weird enjoyment is very odd to me.

MamaChubbyLegs Mon 01-Jul-13 14:47:41

I always avoid the 'misery lit' section (sea of white book covers, black and white sad looking child, sparkly scrawled title)

There is obviously a market for it, but it makes me feel a bit sick that these topics are covered in graphic detail for entertainment, rather than awareness sad

YANBU to read or enjoy, but as squoosh said, I'd wonder about someone who has a whole collection

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 14:50:29

God yes who do those abuse victims think they are writing about their disgusting lives? Don't they know that abuse isn't an appropriate subject for normal non-disgusting people to read about? Why don't they write about something nice and clean like murder or vampires?

Count yourself extremely lucky op and others that you can sit back and smugly judge those who want to talk about the horrific things that happened to them. The genre exists largely due to people like you who believe that people should keep quiet about abuse and that even reading about it, never mind experiencing it or talking about it, somehow makes you dirty and wrong.

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 14:51:59

I've never actually bought one pag - just been passed to me. But people obviously do.

Samu2 Mon 01-Jul-13 14:53:02

Hate Misery lit.

Do not see the appeal at all.

The only author I do like of this genre is Torey Hayden, mainly because they aren't done in a depressing way and she is amazing.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 14:53:16

Out of interest do people object to brian keenan writing about his time as a hostage? And if not, why not?

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 14:54:28

But that' not what I said callin. I do count myself lucky and i am judging the readers of many, not the authors.

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 14:57:17

Cailin That's not what people are saying. We're objecting to child abuse being turned into some kind of 'bestselling' entertainment' with attractively poignant covers and titles and some dubious memoirs that seem to be jumping onto a bandwagon as opposed to being actual facts.

Also, it can be very upsetting for other family members who don't want details of their abusive childhoods to be disseminated like this.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 14:57:28

It's worth remembering too that the majority of abuse victims and writers of thses books are women. By sneering at them and giving them mocking names you are colluding with a society that would much rather women kept quiet about these things.

Not my thing, but wouldn't think anyone was BU for reading them. People with all sorts of experiences write about their lives for any number of reasons. If it means that difficult issues are being openly discussed or victims of abuse are getting some degree of release and closure then I would never criticise.

I'm not sure why (eg) a Holocaust or genocide survivor's memoir would be regarded as an important historical document but one from an abuse victim is somehow shameful. People need to know truths and people need to be able to share their experiences.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 14:58:54

So it's ok to write them as long as no one reads them?

BegoniaBampot Mon 01-Jul-13 15:00:34

Hate it. Can understand someone picking up and reading one, but as to folk who just love this kind of thing and read many - I probably would judge TBH and think they were a bit wet.

MamaChubbyLegs Mon 01-Jul-13 15:01:03

gruntfuttock me too, I thought I was weird!

I literally can't see the appeal in the books. I don't know if they are supposed to appeal to our maternal sides, maybe? Make you wish you could mother that child? I don't know, it'sjust a theory.

I still think that the business of exploiting it for entertainment value is a bit sick. It sensationalises it and takes the piss out of people who have suffered that type of abuse in silence

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:01:20

Exactly lurked. Brian keenan's memoir was lauded (rightly) as a masterpiece. But then he's a man so what he says is important.

Pagwatch Mon 01-Jul-13 15:03:32


The fact that it is an industry with picture of weeping children on the covers is massively uncomfortable for me.
I would hardly be mocking or silencing abuse victims, what with me being one confused

I perfectly respect that you find them valid and worthy. I don't.

There are some well written works. Then there are sensationalised mawkish tomes presented for the gawping and the curious.

Op. you read it, wrote about it. You are adding to the industry.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:03:53

Mama i don't know if you've suffered abuse but i can assure you as a survivor myself i have never come across a survivor who thinks they "take the piss."

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 15:05:22

I don't know how I really feel. That's why i started the thread. I guess as people upthread have said. I think it is important to read some and acknowledge that awareness is needed and that people do have shit lives, but it is a bit strange when people read them all hungrily. I was looking for other perspectives on it. I don't know - is it comforting if you've suffered similar and hear about other experiences? How does it make you feel? I am just truly trying to get my head round it.

PoppyAmex Mon 01-Jul-13 15:06:08

I was given one of those books but didn't particularly wanted to finish it.

On the other hand, I read "Gipsy Boy" and enjoyed it.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:06:30

Cross posted with pag qho does feel that way. I just wonder why abuse memoirs are the focus - whynot memoirs about war or some other horrific event?

Lottapianos Mon 01-Jul-13 15:07:04

Cailin, I honestly don't think that's what the OP was getting at. I agree with OP that these stories should be told and should be heard. I'm an abuse and DV survivor myself and I know first hand how much silence exists around these issues and how much the silence fuels the guilt that survivors feel. Of course no one type of book is going to be everybody's cup of tea and some people will find it strange or even distasteful.

For those of you who find the whole genre very weird/creepy, bear in mind that reading this type of book can be safe way for a person to feel things that are very scary and upsetting. You can pick up a book when you want to and put it down if it becomes too much. Reading about someone else's pain can be helpful in trying to process your own feelings so people do have their reasons for reading sad and horrifying stories.

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 15:09:11

It is interesting that pag and callin have different views on it.

I didn't mean to offend or demean peoples experiences. Just having read one, it made me question things.

Pagwatch Mon 01-Jul-13 15:11:01

I accept your point.
I think its the fact that they are so overwhelmingly pushed as a genre that they now have a section that bothers me.
There is not an entire section in smiths for holocaust victims or 'losing my loved one to cancer' or 'my rape' - all of which would be valid if readers want insight and to uncover the truth of difficult life experiences.

I think its just a prurient interest that is acceptable because it's about children so it's 'caring.'

Anyway. Excuse me. This thread is too upsetting so I shall leave.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:11:16

There are millions of badly written mawkish books out there yet it is always abuse memoirs that get targeted. Why?

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 15:11:53

I don't think they've been turned into an 'industry' in the same way Cailin. I certainly didn't have any objection when they first began to be published as I saw them as highlighting a hugely important issue that society was still quite ignorant of. But then more and more of them were being published, with increasingly lurid titles and manipulative covers. They were no longer highlighting a serious issue or providing new information but simply feeding a salscious market who just treated them as fictional entertainment; also they were like a green light to the usual attention seekers and drama queens who jump on every bandwagon going.
I just think there comes a point where over exposure to an issue can dilute it's real seriousness and the sense of genuine shock it should cause.

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 15:12:08

callin whynot memoirs about war or some other horrific event?

Probably because they just seem so much more personal and you feel like you are intruding on peoples intimate lives.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:13:57

Because Cailin, they are not honest and meaningful accounts of terrible childhoods and abuse by genuine survivors, they are titillating abusefests largely made up to satisfy a peculiar voyeuristic need/desire that is very lucrative.

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 15:14:24

I am not going to flame you but i just wanted to take up a few points from your op:

1. Am sadly too aware of this sort of thing gonig on from reading the papers/watching news. I don't want the sordid details.
2. I don't need to read the sordid details to empathise with those who have suffered abuse of any sort.
3. I am not sure i like the whole - There are others worse off than me, to make me feel better about my lot in life - yes, there are others alot worse off than i am and i remind myself of this bcause i suffer from depression but It does not make me feel better about myself to think, ok well at least im not.............whatever. I just feel sad that other people are in that position.

I remember my friend reading a hardback copy of a book about the Soames murders, with blown up pictures of the little girls on it. I questioned why she was reading it - she said it was important that people knew about these things hmm Like, who didn't know about it?

BegoniaBampot Mon 01-Jul-13 15:14:36

It's the fact that some people seem to enjoy reading about all this pain. Some people just seem to get pleasure in reading about other people's misery - I find this a bit weird and creepy. Wonder if they would have been in the front row for a good old hanging or guilottining.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:20:04

CailanDana is spot on.

Survivors should not be judged on whether they choose to talk about their abuse (or not). They have already been silenced, told what to do, how to act, and a million other things. If, as adults, they then decide they want to tell their story, surely they should be supported? No one has to read this genre - but I can't see why anyone would want to make a survivor feel even worse by criticising and silencing them in this way.

squeakytoy says, 'so many of these books have been discredited as being a fantasy of the authors imagination,' but that simply isn't true. Of the many that have been published, I think that about four have been successfully shown to be embellishing the truth. To claim otherwise is to undermine survivors - again.

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 15:20:41

Begonia - tht is exactly what makes me uncomfortable. I read for pleasure (and sometimes for work/study) but if im reading for pleasure i don't actually want to read about something awful. I also want what i read to be well written, not ghost written by a tin pot author. Its like autobiographies - im not sure half of the people who produce these things can spell, let alone string a sentence together.

I actually would quite enjoy reading about normal people, having normal, every day lives with normal every day problems. Id even like to read about people with charmed childhoods - i'd much prefer that. They don't have to have grown up into anyone special - i'd just like to read about that sort of thing.......wanders off to download Cider with Rosie on my kindle.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:21:09

Shewho- you've indirectly hit on one of the biggest problems abuse survivors face - the fact that abuse unlike a seripus injury or other life changing events is considered private and intimate and not a suitable topic for conversation. That silence around abusecan be more damaging in some ways than the abuse itself as it creates a sense ofshame and secrecy.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:24:37

Do those who disapprove of these books also disapprove of crime fiction?

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:26:29

crime fiction isn't written to sexually and inappropriately titillate like made up abuse "non"-fiction

Lottapianos Mon 01-Jul-13 15:26:30

I read a great book called 'After Silence' a couple of years ago - it was written by a rape survivor. One of the chapters is called 'The Woman In The Amber Necklace' and is about the author attending a lunch to celebrate the publication of her first book, which also discussed her rape. A stranger at the lunch (who was wearing an amber necklace) came up to the author to congratulate her on her publication but added 'of course, no one really wants to read about such things'.

The author was devastated by this comment and it took her months of psychotherapy to let go of the shame and guilt it brought up for her. She writes in the book that she hopes all readers will decide to allow other people to share their experiences without guilt or shame, and will vow to never ever be 'the woman with the amber necklace'.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:27:36

Imo there's nothing wrong with not liking the books - i don't read them myself. What bothers me is the judgy tone that always pops up when this is discussed - the sense tthat these books wrong somehow.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:29:14

But there's a real difference between thinking abuse isn't a fit subject for out loud discussion/writing and thinking a prurient interest in abuse for dodgy reasons should not be encouraged.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:30:18

LEMisdisappointed - that doesn't make any sense. Ghost writers make sure they are well written, otherwise survivors would be silenced even more as they wouldn't be able to write their story in a way that would get a publishing deal.

Many survivors have their education disrupted terribly - they are kept from school, they go there terrified someone will find out or desperate they will, they may act out because of the abuse and get in trouble, or they may be starving and steal food, they may never get a chance to do homework because their home is the least safe place in the world for them. If you want to make fun of that by saying, 'im not sure half of the people who produce these things can spell, let alone string a sentence together', then you most certainly are better off reading 'Cider With Rosie' somewhere your words will not hurt people who have already dealt with so much alienation and ignorance.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:30:40

Those books long since left the realm of the real. Once we had a Child Called It, every man/woman and their dog cat and goldfish churned out a moneyspinner. The publishers don't care if they are true or not if they sell, and the public with dodgy reasons for interest don't care either. It is all distasteful.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:31:37

Crime fiction has been written to sexually titillate, present rape as entertainment, and objectify women since it began.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:31:43

Hully - so should no abuse survivor write about what happened to them just in case someone gets a kick out of it?

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 15:31:43

Cailindiana - i don't read crime fiction for very much that reason. I do read it, but it will either have to have some sort of super natural twist to it, or be a classic. Just the same as i don't like to watch films with excessive violence that "could be real" i see no entertainment in war or violence. I like a ghost story and quite happy about that but will make DP switch over if its gratuitous violence.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:32:16

A friend of mine is obsessed with the Holocaust. She reads endless grim books of terrible suffering. So many now that I really think it has gone beyond the historical/anthropological realm and gone to some dark recess of the psyche that I don't really want to name.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:32:19

'The publishers don't care if they are true or not . . .'

Not true itself.

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 15:34:19

I think the problem is CAillin is that there were some good books written - I can't remember who started it off. Some guy where he wrote about his childhood that i just cant remember his name - he wrote a series of books. It just seems that now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon - by everyone i mean publishers. I think there are better outlets for survivors of abuse or at least there should be. These books are not cathartic for anyone apart from the publisher

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:34:20

That's a separate question Cailin. Anyone can write anything they want. What I question are the motives of the readers these days. It has become an industry. It taps into something not entirely wholesome.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:36:01

Fair enough lem. You don't like the books or anything violent. Where did you get the idea that abuse survivors can't spell?

BeCool Mon 01-Jul-13 15:39:32

My only awareness that this is a genre for books is through threads where they are mentioned on MN, so I'm not well placed to comment.

I did enjoy "Ugly" by Constance Briscoe if that counts. I don't know of these other books you are all talking of.

However I do find when reading (or watching TV) that I do get quite addicted to a certain genre, and thrash it until my interest is exhausted or something else captivates me.

Recently it's been Swedish crime novels & TV - Larsen/Nesbo etc, plus The Killing/Wallender/Arne Dahl etc etc.

Now I've moved onto English history - reading Hilary Mantel, watching The Tudors, The White Queen etc. I just can't get enough of it.

When PG with DD2, and not feeling well at all, all I wanted to watch was CSI:whatever from dusk till dawn.

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 15:39:44

Morbid fascination is what i think you are looking for there hully? I thnk its common in younger people? As i get older, my empathy prevents me from being able to read anything like that.

OhTiger Mon 01-Jul-13 15:40:06

They have a whole Misery Lit section in Asda. I find it quite upsetting that people go in for eggs, milk, pasta, tale of horrific child abuse.

Do not understand the appeal at all. But then I watched Les Miserables the other night, cried several times and then said I really enjoyed it. Aren't we odd?

Justfornowitwilldo Mon 01-Jul-13 15:40:35

Have you been and looked at that section in a book shop? They have their own section. People's misery packaged and sold as entertainment.

squoosh Mon 01-Jul-13 15:41:34

I find the Asda section odd. Biography, Fiction, Kids, Misery hmm

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 15:41:44

CAilin - i'm sorry, that was a result of my bad English! I meant the celebrety autobiographies! not folk who write these books - but i do wonder how many of the misery lit books are written by the victims or written by a "ghost writer" these are the people who write bad books. Sorry, did not mean to imply that at all x

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 15:44:36

The thing is Cailin that there are abuse survivors writing serious, thought provoking accounts of their experiences but they are lost in a wealth of sensationalised, half truth/half fiction ghost written 'memoirs', with titles and covers chosen by marketing sections of large publishing houses to titillate readers and almost 'glamourise' the whole subject. It's that which is distasteful.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:44:53

Just - almost all adult books contain some element of misery. Why is abuse special?

Hully it's comments like your "not entirely wholesome" that make me feel tainted like i'm dirtying people by just talking about what happened to me.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:45:12

squoosh - I find Asda (all supermarkets) odd. Lad's mags, booze, fags, etc etc. MN has taught me none of that should be judged.

Abuse survivors though? Fair game . . .

CoteDAzur Mon 01-Jul-13 15:47:38

YANBU to read whatever you like.

Having said that, I understand why abuse victims etc write these books but I can't fathom why anyone would actually want to read them.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:48:38

There are lots of books about dogs. Written by ghost writers. Now, lots of people with dogs will no doubt have fascinating doggy stories to tell. If they want those stories packaged in a way that will hit a wide audience, they get a ghost writer, they get a major publisher, they get a cover that will fit the genre. Should no dog book be published because of this?

Or is it just abuse that has different rules - as always?

If you want to have a debate about publishing, that's fine - there's plenty to talk about; but why vilify survivors while doing it?

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 15:50:56

Nobody's 'vilifying survivors'. And I think abuse is a rather more serious subject than dogs. What an extraordinary post confused

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:52:46

See if i had a massive car crash i could tell everyone about it and they would want all the details and be interested in and amazed by what i went through. No one would be considered weird for wanting to know all the details. Yet with abuse just hearing someone else's story is "not quite wholesome." so i would have to assume that anyone genuinely wanting to listen to me was some sort of pervert getting a kick out of the details.

squoosh Mon 01-Jul-13 15:53:16

Who has vilified abuse survivors?

People are judging those who devour these books one after the other.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:54:22

It's not extraordinary at all. It's comparing genres because a lot of the attacks in this thread are about how publishing works.

I can see survivors being hurt, undermined and vilified here.

It is, however, extraordinary if you think I was suggesting abuse is not a more serious subject than dogs. Would you like one of those patronising little emoticons back at you, Arabesque?

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 15:55:30

If someone was constantly buying books about crash survivors and anxious to read the lurid details then I would find them strange, yes.

Someone with a genuine interest in the psychological after effects of trauma reading serious books on the matter - and maybe one or two personal accounts - fine. But constantly reading the more sensational ones - no.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:56:07

Cailin you are misunderstanding me.

There is nothing wrong with writing/taking about abuse

There is something wrong with a lot of people's reasons for wanting to read it.

The survivor (the one in a hundred genuine author) may write out of pure reasons.

It is the reader whose motives for reading I question

Can you not see the difference?

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 15:57:26

Spotty, if doggy owners are happy to be exploited by publishers, fine. But exploiting a serious subject like child abuse by sensationalising it and publishing unverified stories is something I find distasteful. That has absolutely nothing to do with vilifying or undermining abuse survivors, quite the opposite in fact.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:57:32

Exactly squoosh. People are saying "yes abuse survivor write your story but bear in mind only weirdos will read it. Normal people like us don't want to hear about it and we will sneer at anyone who is interested in what you have to say."

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 15:57:38

Hullygully - are you saying that only one in a hundred of those who write survivor memoirs is telling the truth?

squoosh Mon 01-Jul-13 15:57:55

I feel the same about people who buy weekly sensational magazines on the subject of serial killers. It's just odd.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 15:59:16

I read an interesting thing once by a woman who wanted to write about rape in a way that conveyed the awful reality with absolutely no possibility of anyone getting inappropriately titillated.

She experimented with different words and structures until in the end she came up with something so grim it was genuinely hard to read.

A lot of misery memoirs are written in language (not the survivor's own) that feeds into the "unwholesome" interest I am talking about.

These books (not the originals) are written now to make money.

squoosh Mon 01-Jul-13 15:59:38

Cailin why do you think certain people exclusively read misery lit? Do you think it's beacuse they have such empathy or is it because they are getting pleasure from it?

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:00:06

Arabesque - why do you think these stories are unverified?

OhTiger Mon 01-Jul-13 16:01:32

I see exactly what Hully is saying.

On one hand, having these sections and books out there as obviously as they are may be a good thing - abuse survivors know its not just them and may be more likely to speak up? And the writing of the true ones is obviously cathartic for survivors, I think?

On the other hand, many of us find it an odd subject matter to read for pleasure.

As a separate-ish question, do you think reading about these things constantly desensitizes people to the horror? Normalises it?

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:01:48

If I say there are a number of glorified bandwaggoners, you will say I am disbelieving survivors.

I am not playing any kind of game here.

The world is a horribly cynical place. If something makes money, people try and reproduce it to make money of their own.

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 16:02:02

Because I know of some cases where siblings have completely disputed some of the facts of some of these stories but they have been published anyway.

BegoniaBampot Mon 01-Jul-13 16:03:12

Posters here are talking about why people read these books and find them entertaining or attractive rather than the people writing them. And again, it would probably be the publishers rather then the authors that would come in for criticism anyway as they are seen to making a fast buck out of promoting this kind of thing.

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 16:03:21

Also, What HullyGully said.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:03:40

OhTiger - regarding your last (excellent) question, yes. I do think people are desensitised, and I think child abuse is, to an appalling extent, normalised already. Do these books contribute? Perhaps - I'd quite like to do some research on that actually . . .

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 16:04:12

I think its about the way the books are marketed though! That is my problem with it.

There are plenty of peer reviewed journals that would be the place for a review of this sort of thing, that was being read by people with a genuine interest in the field, so counsellers, psychiatrists etc. I have no problem with that, but yes, as an extension of "take a break" and "bella" then yes, i think is mawkish.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:05:02

Squoosh - most people read for pleasure so i assume they get pleasure from it. I got great pleasure from reading brian keenan's memoir even though what he described was horrific. If i hadn't been enjoying it i would have stopped reading it. Equally i believe people who read about war, vampires or murder get pleasure from it. Why do you ask?

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:05:50

HullyGully and Arabesque - I'm not playing mind games either. I genuinely know of four (all massive bestsellers, which made a fortune, which is not the norm for this genre at all, despite what some people believe). If you know of lots, I would be honestly interested as I would like to know which publishers are doing this.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:08:19

I can't give you specifics, spotty. I was told by a friend who mentioned some names in passing, but frankly they are all too similar and I made no effort to retain them.

OhTiger Mon 01-Jul-13 16:08:33

Thank you spottybanana grin - it's on my list of possible research questions too. Along with the whole nature of desensitisation in the last 15 years (dead bodies on the news etc)

Hully is still right. See for instance the swathe of vampire books after Twilight, and <boak> mummy porn post 50 Shades.

Publishers are not charities interested in furthering the cause of literature/providing a vent for the abused, as a rule, but large money making companies trying to rake in as much as possible.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:08:36

So abuse should only be read about by counsellors and other qualified people? God it makes me feel like i'm carrying a paedophile-creating plague.

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 16:09:58

Spotty the fact that I alone know of a couple and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them out there makes me wonder how many are true, how many are half true, and how many are total fantasy.

It would be naive to think that, in such a lucrative genre. there is not some manipulation of facts (and indeed of vulnerable people) in order to allow publishers to make a lot of money.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:10:01


I don't know how else to say what I am saying. I'm sorry you feel the way you are feeling. It isn't what I (and I'm sure others) meant at all.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:10:10

Peer-reviewed survivor memoirs?

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:12:38

Do you work in this field Arabesque? Again, a genuinely interested question as I would be keen to know how much publishers and manipulated survivors are making, the likelihood that there are thousands of 'total fantasy' abuse memoirs are getting past legal teams, and how you have uncovered this?

I hate being naïve, so would very much welcome the answers.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:12:38

But surely Cailin, you wouldn't want anyone listening or reading to your experiences to feel anything other than horrified and angry?

That is what I question, what people are taking from these thousands of "memoirs"

LEMisdisappointed Mon 01-Jul-13 16:12:55

<bangs head on wall> NO, that is not what i mean, what i mean is, that is should not be sensationalised by publishers who are publishing all manner of these books for entertainment. That this sort of things should not be being used to make money. But should be being taken seriously!

I'm giving up now because i can't seem to say the right thing for saying wrong and really don't want to upset or offend anyone.

ICantRememberWhatSheSaid Mon 01-Jul-13 16:12:56

I have read some 'misery lit' books that I have found interesting and well written and some are truely inspiring. However, some read like an extended 'Chat' magazine article and are sometimes just salacious rubbish.

I love real life adventure books - for example mountaineering or exploration - these are often full of heartbreak and 'real life' drama. Some of the accounts of failed attempts of Everest are full of misery. grin

So I am on the fence unless I know the exact books you are reading

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:17:53

Why should i care what the reader feels hully? A paedophile took my childhood, should i let another paedophile stop me from talking about it?

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 16:18:16

Spotty I work in a related field to publishing and I didn't say 'thousands' are total fantasy I said that if I, as an individual, knew of a couple than, amongst the thousands of memoirs published, it is likely there is a percentage that are not completely true.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:20:15

What field Arabesque?

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:20:48

No, not if you don't care.

But it is the fact that some people find them (insert appropriate word for not reading in the right spirit) that I don't like.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:20:55

Hully can you see that by using the words "pure" and "wholesome" yoare perpetuating the idea that there is something "impure" and "unwholesome" about abuse survivors?

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:23:18

No. Unwholesome applies to the reader with questionable motive. Pure applied to the motive of the genuine survivor to separate that person from the person churning out made up stuff to make money.

I can see you are very upset. As I said up there, I can't think of a way to say what I think any more clear. Please stop thinking I think survivors are tainted and should shut up!!

SaucyJack Mon 01-Jul-13 16:23:35

YABU. I actually picked up one of those books in a charity shop last week, and the few paragraphs I skimmed were nothing but hideously lurid over descriptions of some really quite unbelievably vile sounding abuse. Bleurgh.

Just utter trash written by people who need attention from morons who want cheap, nasty thrills.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:24:08

This is my last attempt:



OhTiger Mon 01-Jul-13 16:25:00

Cailin I don't think anyone here would say the survivors are impure or unwholesome! That is against the very spirit of what is being said. The word 'survivors' belies that surely, and the fact that MN as a whole hates any victim blaming. Please don't feel bullied or attacked. flowers

It's those that are reading these books for 'pleasure' that some of us do not understand, and also the sheer quantity of the memoirs of this genre available.

OhTiger Mon 01-Jul-13 16:25:53

And also what Hully said.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:26:14

And indeed we have been on enough threads together for you to know me better than this, Cailin.

Arabesque Mon 01-Jul-13 16:26:22

Spotty I am not going to give you chapter and verse on my job. What on earth has that got to do with the views I have expressed? Either address those views or don't but trying to harangue posters by following up every answer they give you with another question smacks of trying to divert from the main argument.

spottybanana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:26:57

Well, SaucyJack's comments are enough to make me leave this thread.

Cailin - you have helped so many people on this site. The thread you started last year was incredible and lives were turned round because of that. You are an amazing person.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:28:41

Basically hully my story is my story. It happened to me and nothing will change that. If i wrote a book about it it would be because i want to tell my story, like anybody else. Just because my story includes abuse i don't want to be treated like a special topic that only people with pure and wholesome motives can read about. I'm a person with a life story like anyone else, i want to be able to tell that story without having to hide details for fear of who might read it.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:32:01

Hully i don't think badly of you at all, you know how much i like you. I'm not upset , i'm just trying to put my point across.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:32:04

And that is completely fair.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:32:21

I meant your first post.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:33:19

Oh and thanks spotty blush

SaucyJack Mon 01-Jul-13 16:34:57

But this is the whole issue with 'misery lit' Cailin. You might want to tell your story, but I can't imagine anyone who wanted to hear it would be those you wanted to listen.

I'm sure there is a sensitive and respectful way to both read and write about the issue, but these books ain't it.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:39:29

I just read an interesting article on the rise of the genre by Esther Addley in the Guardian

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:39:33

The implication being, saucy, that only twisted people could possibly want to read about my life, that normal "good" people wouldn't touch it. That makes me feel great.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:39:43

It was online, not today's paper.

Justfornowitwilldo Mon 01-Jul-13 16:40:13

'Just because my story includes abuse i don't want to be treated like a special topic that only people with pure and wholesome motives can read about.'

They are treated as a separate topic. They're not put with the autobiographies. Brian Keenan's book didn't get packaged as a genre piece so that he was defined by his suffering.

There is something unpleasant, ghoulish and, yes, unwholesome in someone choosing to read the details of other people's horrible experiences as entertainment. If there was a torture section and someone spent their time reading books about people's pain and suffering I would find it just as odd. I feel the same about people who read 'real crime' books.

Patchouli Mon 01-Jul-13 16:42:18

I don't like to think of children who keep seeing these books around and thinking of adults reading about the abuse of children for their own titillation.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:47:01

I really object to the word "titillation." why is a book about war or murder entertaining while a book about abuse is "titillating"? Any research on the genre suggests that these books are mainly read by survivors. I doubt they get' much "titillation" from them. There's no evidence that they are favoured by paedophiles.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:49:32

According to the article I've just read, there is indeed a concern that paedophiles read them, especially paedophiles that were themselves abused as children.

Apparently the biggest readership is those that read them to feel better about their own lives.

BegoniaBampot Mon 01-Jul-13 16:49:53

This style of literature is a passing fashion. I still don't think abuse should be a fashion and for titilation and the 'urgh' factor which the publishers have turned it into as it makes them money. That's why people question the readers who love reading this. Also the fact that people now realise or suspect that at least some will be made up or embellished detracts from thoses who are genuine. When the fashion passes the publishers will move on to another fashion, all they care about is the money.

No- one is critising or trying to deny a voice to those who have been abused.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 16:50:11

I don't think books about war and murder are entertaining.

SaucyJack Mon 01-Jul-13 16:50:29

Cailin it's not that "normal" people don't want to touch your story, it's that they have the decency to not use the abuse of young children to try and make them feel better about their own sorry, dull lives or even worse, seedy by proxy titilation.

I'm sorry you can't see this and find it hurtful.

Patchouli Mon 01-Jul-13 16:51:39

The people I know at work who pass these books around seem to read them for titillation.
They love all those 'Take a Break' etc mags too, which smack of freak shows to me.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 16:59:03

Could you link to the article hully?

Of course publishers only care about money! Publishing is a business!! The way people are talking about publishers you would swear they grabbed people off the street and forced them to write these books. Abuse survivors aren't idiots who need protecting from evil publishers.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 17:01:22
thegreylady Mon 01-Jul-13 17:03:00

I have read a few by foster carers-Cathy Glass and Casey someone and quite enjoyed them.I can't stomach the ones about horrendous abuse although I read some Torey Hayden years ago before she became popular.
The best childhood memoir I have read is Bad Blood by Lorna Sage which is very literate and thought provoking.Interestingly part of the first chapter was the extract for comprehension on an exam paper I saw recently.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 17:03:37

I liked Lorna Sage too

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 17:05:23

The link doesn't work.
Again jack, you are implying that my story wouldn't be read by decent people. Because of course my story will taint them.

thebody Mon 01-Jul-13 17:06:17

No I can't understand reading this at all.

I have a friend who 'loves' this sort of thing and 'gloats' over it really trying to share the misery.

I am not even sure half of them are true or just jumping in the bandwagon.

Many people who have been abused just share with loved ones/ therapists or simply not at all.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 17:06:35

It works when I click on it

squoosh Mon 01-Jul-13 17:07:12

I thought Bad Blood was excellent too. Must have a re-read.

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 17:07:18

Hully did you watch Schindler's List?

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 17:09:15

It just says it's an outdated link when i click it. What's bad blood about?

CalamityKate Mon 01-Jul-13 17:09:32

I don't understand people who take it to extremes.

Fair enough reading the odd misery-lit book but if you find yourself making a beeline for that section and actively searching for titles like "Please Mammy Don't Poke Me With Your Knitting Needles Any More" then I think there's something a bit off...

shewhowines Mon 01-Jul-13 17:09:57

Shewho- you've indirectly hit on one of the biggest problems abuse survivors face - the fact that abuse unlike a seripus injury or other life changing events is considered private and intimate and not a suitable topic for conversation. That silence around abusecan be more damaging in some ways than the abuse itself as it creates a sense ofshame and secrecy.
See if i had a massive car crash i could tell everyone about it and they would want all the details and be interested in and amazed by what i went through. No one would be considered weird for wanting to know all the details.

I think the reason is mainly we feel guilty for being interested because we don't want to feel we are invading peoples misery. It's done because we respect survivors and don't want to add to their misery. It's not done because we feel it is shameful. We are trying to protect you, not to make you feel bad.

You have made me reconsider my attitude callin. Thanks

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 17:11:58

Thebody- when you say many who have been abused just share it with loved ones are you saying that's the way it should be?

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 17:14:31

No, I haven't seen it. Not out of choice, just haven't

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 17:19:51

Shewho - i'm glad. With any big traumatic event it's normal for people to talk a lot about it to make sense of it. With abuse many people never get a chance to talk about it and that can make it fester and eat away at you. It was only when i talked, in detail, about what happened to me that it started to lose its power over me.

PoppyAmex Mon 01-Jul-13 17:23:35

I wish I could articulate it better, but for me it's not necessarily the subject matter that I find uncomfortable but the way it's treated; the formulaic script with excessive gratuitous details and the way it seems to exploit someone's pain.

It just feels wrong to me as a reader, and yet...

I find books like this absolutely inspiring. The author was abused in the travelling community for being gay and the story can make uncomfortable reading at points, but didn't make me feel like a ghoulish voyeur.

Do you think it just has to do with the quality of the writing?

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 17:31:28

Poppy - there's no doubt that some of this genre is very badly written. But that's true of any genre. It seems that it's the subject matter people object to. Basically abuse survivors shouldn't write about what happened to them in case paedophiles read it.

PoppyAmex Mon 01-Jul-13 17:46:01

"Basically abuse survivors shouldn't write about what happened to them in case paedophiles read it."

Well if they abuse survivors can live with that idea, I imagine so can I.

I still struggle to understand why, as a reader, you would actively choose to read something like Esther described in Hully's link. Maybe if you have experienced some abuse yourself this is a "safe" way to explore those feelings, but otherwise it just smacks of schadenfreude to me.

PoppyAmex Mon 01-Jul-13 17:46:26

Rogue "they".

GoshAnneGorilla Mon 01-Jul-13 17:53:12

This has been a really interesting discussion.

What I am interested in, is that child abuse is still viewed as a "taboo" subject to a certain extent, these books are very mainstream in terms of their availability and popularity, in a way that real crime books generally aren't. Why is that?

CailinDana Mon 01-Jul-13 18:01:51

Why does anyone read about anything poppy? My dad loves books about weaponry, i couldn't imagine anything duller. Stories of childhood, even horrible ones can be interesting. I like biographies because i like to see how people have been shaped by their life.

LeGavrOrf Mon 01-Jul-13 18:42:04

I think I agree with bully and pag on this, with huge respect to cailindana.

I think how people deal with abuse is very personal to them, I choose to barely acknowledge it, yet others speak of it, and some would write memoirs. I understand that totally.

What I don't understand is the prurience and the cynical nature of the publishing industry around this genre as a whole. I think it does tap into a dark element of someone's psyche. Like Hullys friend who is interested in the holocautst. I feel the same about true crime TV shows (XP once watched a crap documentary about Fred West, it was hideous, I wouldn't choose to watch that and yet there are whole TV channels devoted to true crimes and murders like this).

I dislike the way that these misery lit books are marketed, all the same or similar typeface, black and white photo of a sad looking child, structured the same. There are genuine stories, beautifully written (thinking mainly of Andrea Ashworths Once In a House on Fire) and they are lumped in with the rest some of which may be of dubious origin.

thebody Mon 01-Jul-13 18:51:20

Cailina, I read the post from Shew, really really made me think.

Of course it's distasteful that some people seem to wallow in other people's dreadful experience of abuse and I guess it's a distaste of that is what I meant.

Of course survivors have the absolute right to share their stories.

I suppose it seems so bloody dreadful that to read about it, like you would a Marion Keys seems disrespectful.

scottishmummy Mon 01-Jul-13 18:58:35

No.i avoid those sepia books with the ghoulish I said stop daddy type titles

persimmon Mon 01-Jul-13 19:02:23

I don't like that such books have become a huge industry. I think a lot of people read them for a voyeuristic frisson not because they care or want their awareness raised.

JesusInTheCabbageVan Mon 01-Jul-13 19:13:59

Re the link posted by HullyGully - this paragraph absolutely sums up what I would be groping to express if I tried to say it myself:

"As a reader, there is certainly a relief in reaching the end of one of these books, but the faint glimpses of hope and positivity offered at their endings rarely atone for the horrors that one endures to get there... it can be an uncomfortable and faintly soiling experience to read explicit narratives of incest and horrific abuse, told in the matter-of-fact chatter of a damaged child and rarely mediated by much literary merit. The authors of these books may feel they are revealing important truths... but can they be certain that there isn't a degree of uncomfortable prurience, or worse, in the relish with which such tales are whisked off the shelves?"

Lionessy Mon 01-Jul-13 19:41:46

I went through a phase of reading a few of these books. I am a mother of 4, not a paedophile, weirdo or misery addict.

It was when I first started therapy for my own sexual/physical/emotional abuse and adult rape. I was trying to tell myself that my experiences were not 'that bad' and wanted to find out about other people's experiences that were surely much worse than mine so what did I have to complain about? We don't talk about this kind of thing. Victims are left with feelings of shame and guilt and it is kept hidden.

Reading them did help in the sense feeling less 'alone' as the damaged person I am. I, for one, am happy that this topic has come into greater public awareness through these 'trashy' books.

I was neither titillated, excited nor did I 'get off' on them. I was full of empathy and anger that these things so often go on unnoticed and unchallenged and that the long term damage it can cause is not fully understood.

soontobeburns Mon 01-Jul-13 19:49:42

I love them and im not ashamed to admit it.

I cant put a finger on why but I do just kikelike

soontobeburns Mon 01-Jul-13 19:51:09


Just like I like the shawshank redemption, the magdelene sisters etc.

I don't "get off" on them but its good for making you think.

Hullygully Mon 01-Jul-13 19:53:31

This is where debates get silly, when they are polarised.

No one has said/is saying that ALL people that like them are to be doubted

Likewise, no one is saying that ALL of them are made up nonsense to get money.

There are 500 different shades of views and reasons.

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