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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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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?"

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

Rogue "they".

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.

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 17:23:35

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 17:19:51

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.

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 17:11:58

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?

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

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...

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?

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

Hully did you watch Schindler's List?

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

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

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

It works when I click on it

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.

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