I know I haven't been doing much writing on this blog lately. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I have summer brain, meaning that I don't want to do anything but float in a swimming pool, lay on the beach, or (depending on how hot it is outside) watch Battlestar Galactica with my blinds drawn. The other is that I'm working on a proposal for my manuscript which, for some reason, is even harder than writing the damn book. The world of publishing makes warfare with Cylons look like a Sunday picnic--but that's a completely different blog post. What I'm really trying to get at here is the toll of market research.
What does market research entail, you ask? Mainly reading a whole lot of books that are in some way similar to yours, so that you can prove to editors and agents that there is an audience for what you are writing. Because it doesn't matter how good your book is if it won't sell.
Anyway, I don't have to tell you that I am damn sick of reading memoirs about suicide, depression, and grief. And truth be told, I haven't read that many. I find that by the second or third chapter I know enough about the book to know if it is comparable to mine. But more than that, I find that I am emotionally wiped. I'm not in a place in my life anymore where I want to walk that journey with a narrator. After my brother died I scrambled for books like this: I couldn't get enough suicide survivor stories. I wanted to know how to make it through my grief. And even when books didn't offer that kind of advice (or when they tried and didn't succeed), it helped just to know that it was possible to build a life on the other side of such a loss. Now that I am here, in a new, healed life, I don't really want to go back.
I also find that I am more sensitive to the nature of my reading material than I used to be. Unfortunately depression is a vicious cycle: the more times you experience depressive episodes, the more likely you are to continue experiencing them. My history has constructed a super highway to Despair in my brain, and books about tough subject matter force my emotions into the express lane.
Long story short: I gotta balance that shit out.
I am always on the prowl for depressive-friendly literature, and this market research has inspired me to start a list. If I can come up with enough titles, I might even create a page for the list on my site. So here are a few books that I turn to again and again. Make no mistake: they are not all about "happy things." They are books that make me laugh, make me forget myself. They are books find the drop of joy in the sea of terror. We're not talking about saccharine Hallmark rainbows here. These are achingly beautiful books that make me want to live harder. Please share some of yours, and let's see if we can create the market research for my next book.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean Dominique Bauby
My Life in France by Julia Child
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
Traveling Mercies; Plan B; and Grace, Eventually by Anne Lamott
Pretty much anything by David Sedaris, especially if it's an audiobook
Safekeeping by Abigail Thomas
My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut