Sad Books Again
Can we gain any consolation from sad books? What is it about them and about us that makes them worthwhile?
While I’m sure that a well-written, truly sad story, can also be life-enhancing and consolatory, it is very difficult to understand the mechanism that makes this possible.
There’s the pleasure we take from the writing, the beauty of it, the beauty of the events related, the symmetry, and somehow that works against the sadness. Somehow insulates us from it.
We understand that grief is designed as a healing process. That if grief is denied or ignored or somehow buried then the bereaved person can be damaged, even crippled. But if grief is worked through therapeutically it heals. And a sad book or poem can help us to do that.
It has to be truly sad, though. It doesn’t work if it’s sentimental, or if it’s in any way sugar-coated.