helen-louise (baratron) wrote,

  • Mood:

how tragic.

I had to pay some cheques into the bank today, so I went to the bank in the basement of the Bentall Centre and then into WH Smith to get a hot chocolate from the Costa inside (as opposed to going to the one on the top floor, or the one in the market place). While I was waiting for my drink to be made, I looked across at the bookselling part of the shop, and was horrified to discover that there is now a whole section labelled "Tragic Life Stories"!

Back up a minute here. It surprises me that there is a market for Tragic Life autobiographies in any case. Why on earth would anyone want to read about children or young adults being abused? It's bad enough knowing that such things happen, without reading all the horrible details. I can think of maybe three good reasons why a person might want to read such a book: to recover from abuse of their own, and put it into some sort of perspective; to try to understand the psychology of abusers, so that you can avoid becoming one yourself; and to realise that your own family, while fucked up, is not as bad as it could be. I can't believe that it would be useful for psychologists to read such books, because of the problems of recovered memories or unreliable narrators, and in any case they're marketed at the general public.

Now, I know perhaps five or six people who have told me about specific incidents of abuse that happened when they were children or teenagers; and things being as they are, I suspect I know another five or six who were abused but haven't told me. But what all of these friends have in common is that they want to move on from the shitty experiences and build the best adult life they possibly can. I can't imagine anyone I know wanting to wallow in their misery to the extent of writing a book about it, although I can see how some people could find the storytelling cathartic. But some of these authors have gone on to write three or four books about their abuse! And while I can see how a person might want to read one of these books for the reasons I mentioned already, the idea of deliberately reading book after book about damaged people seems like car crash TV - slowing down to look at the wreckage to make you feel more alive. And that seems, well, somewhat broken to me.

But then I mentioned this to the guy working in Costa, who I know vaguely through being a regular customer, and he told me how it was particularly awful for him because he lost a friend recently. She was 34 years old, diving with her husband in Malta, and got into difficulties. Apparently she got helium in her blood - I guess this would be the bends or an arterial gas embolism? And what I know about that is very little because I don't dive and will never be allowed to dive (asthma), but even I as a totally lay person know that you have to ascend to the surface slowly when that happens. Apparently her instructor pulled her straight up to the surface (!). One of the people she worked for is a lawyer, and he is investigating the dive company - who apparently have been responsible for 75% of diving deaths in Malta (!! Yes, I wish I knew the name of the company so I could tell my friends who dive to avoid them like the plague!). So he gets to stand there all day, making drinks for people, and seeing the books that peddle gawping at other people's misery. Gods.

So, if you are a praying sort of person, pray for the family and friends of this woman. Pray or hope also that the incompetent people get fined/prosecuted/retrained. And, spoons permitting, I will write a brief letter to the manager of WH Smith saying how utterly inappropriate I find the Tragic Life Stories section, and how upsetting it could be for anyone who's experienced a recent loss.
Tags: boooks, not my news

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