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Episode Discussions > Episode 87: Comforting vs. Confronting Reading

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message 1: by Michael (last edited Nov 20, 2013 03:02PM) (new)

Michael (knowledgelost) I was hoping someone would start this topic but couldn't wait any longer. I really enjoyed this discussion and I even blogged about it as a formal response. I think I read confronting books because I'm interested in the mindset of these people; what makes them tick and what makes them do these things. Also I rather read about people making mistakes so that I don't have to make them myself (ie Kill someone).

Also does anyone remember what the book was called that Simon was talking about the person with alzheimers? I thought he said The Night Tiger but can't find the book anywhere (I know it's coming soon but I want to make sure I have it on my TBR).

message 2: by Ruthiella (last edited Nov 20, 2013 06:55PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 272 comments I haven't listened to the episode yet. There is a book called Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, narrated by a woman who is old and dying. But I don't think she has Alzheimer’s. And this is not a new book anyway. But it is a great book, and I highly recommend it.

I am at work as I type and desperate to go home, so I will make this short and hopefully come back and respond with better thoughts about confronting vs. comforting later. But I am thinking of The Slap, which I know you have read and did I. I have read your review a few times. I think that is an intentionally confrontational book, but boy did it tick a lot of people off.

I just wanted to say THANKS for posting. I was going start a thread called "CRICKETS" (as in "all I hear is") because there has been so little discussion here on The Reader's Goodreads Group lately. We have over 300 members...where is everyone?

message 3: by Samuel (new)

Samuel (slrp) | 8 comments I'm also a reader of confronting books. I agree with you, Michael. Can't stand those brainless cosy romances that hold little depth or meaning. American Psycho remains my favourite book because how utterly fearless it is. However, I am quite embarrassed to admit that in public. Oh, wait, I just have.

message 4: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Michael, in some ways I think there is a voyeuristic quality to some confronting reads. The same thing that makes us rubber neck when there is a traffic accident or watch footage of the twin towers collapsing in seemingly endless loops.

Ruthiella, I didn't like everything about Moon Tiger but I did like the aspects that dealt with the character's dementia/memory loss. In a similar way I loved May Sarton's As We Are Now which is a story of a woman who has been put into a nursing home. Really makes one confront one's future.

Sam, as you may know, I love me some cosy books. But I also like confronting books. Despite having a hard time with graphic violence I did enjoy American Psycho. Although like Simon said on the podcast, I'm not sure I could read it a second time.

message 5: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Ruthiella, I feel like Goodreads in general seems to be less and less active these days. The Readers is the most active of any of the groups I am in.

message 6: by Louise (new)

Louise | 154 comments I love books about real dilemmas (concerning relationships, parenting, morals, ethics etc.) because the many many factors and personality traits that ultimately decide what happens, fascinate me.

I was a little surprised, when a lot of women in another group had issues with adultery and unprotected sex in an erotic story - I mean - it's a story! :-)

I just saw no point in American Psycho, I've given Ellis a few tries, and his books are just not for me.

As I commented on Simon's blog, I've had to stay away from books where bad stuff happens to kids, after becoming a parent myself. It's scary how it can make you worry etc even more than you're already doing!

message 7: by Elizabeth☮ (new)

Elizabeth☮ I like books that allow me to delve into an aspect of life I may not otherwise experience (and depending on the content, I may not want to!). I am not squeamish when it comes to content, but I haven't read many books that are all that graphically violent.

I did try to read Lolita, but couldn't finish it. I have two girls so maybe it's not for me right now. It could just be where I am in my life right now.

I recently I loved HHhH and I feel like that is a confronting novel in many ways. I highly recommend it. It's a book that forces thought and discussion for the reader and that's a good thing.

message 8: by Ruthiella (last edited Nov 21, 2013 09:37PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 272 comments I definitely like to mix it up when reading, whether that be in genres, or classics, or metafiction or comforting vs confrontational reads. The only thing I am really afraid of is Faulkner. Ha ha.

I have a short list of books that I thought were good and worth reading, but which I never want to read again. They are: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis and The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Despite my feeling about Less Than Zero, however, I will read American Psycho someday (and probably add it to this list).

I read less ghost or horror stories now than when I was younger, but I still like good dystopian novels precisely because they are frightening.

As for comfort reading, I think one of the best examples of that for me is The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sheriff (which I won on Thomas’ blog…thanks Thomas! I meant to send you a thank you note, uh, 3 years ago). It is a really simple, straightforward yet charming tale about a family’s two week vacation, there is no drama or conflict, just lovely detail. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim is also quite a restful read and also about a vacation, but more of a fairy tale than the former book. I also find Dickens quite comforting, even though bad things do happen and Bleak House even made me cry.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Ruthiella wrote: "I also find Dickens quite comforting, even though bad things do happen

A good point. What one person finds challenging may be comforting to someone else. Nor can every book be easily categorised as either comfortable or confronting: within the same covers one may well find the happy and the sad, the pleasant and the deeply unpleasant.

Graphic violence and horror are not my bag. I read crime not out of an interest in seeing violence described, or even from a desire to probe the darker side of human nature, but rather because I like the puzzle and the sense of resolution that a good mystery can provide.

message 10: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 92 comments What makes a confronting read? Is it the subject matter? Is it experimental structure? Is it complex sentence structure and vocabulary?

I like to read challenging or difficult things interspersed with comforting reads (such as Agatha Raisin, thank you Simon) or rereads of old favorites. I don't mind horror, so those sorts of books do not confront me. I enjoy complex language, so that isn't difficult, either. I find books that experiment with the form or structure of the novel to be more challenging.

message 11: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Melissa, for me it's subject matter. I don't find experimental structure or complexity confronting. Actually, I am more likely to read something with difficult subject matter than I am to read something with experimental structure. Call me a Philistine.

message 12: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 92 comments Thomas, what is difficult subject matter for you?
I don't mind complexity, but I find "showy" experimentalism to be confronting. I was interested in A Visit from the Goon Squad until I saw the chapter in Power Point. Please. Just No.

message 13: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (thomasathogglestock) | 251 comments Difficult subject matter for is stuff that makes me uncomfortable like violence or something that hits too close to home, or is upsetting on some way.

I might hate it, but I am kind of intrigued by a chapter in PowerPoint.

message 14: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 272 comments I thought the PowerPoint chapter totally worked. My problem (although I liked it generally) with A Visit from the Goon Squad is that it is linked short stories, not a novel. Short stories are a reading taste that I have failed to acquire.

message 15: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Holden | 13 comments I feel a book is challenging when it plays around with the structure of a novel and the natural usage of punctuation and grammar. As part of my Booker challenge I have just read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and found her lack of quotation marks and, in my opinion, over usage of the word he difficult to follow. I also have a book called Umbrella by Will Self which I am daunted by as it is 400 pages of continuous stream of consciousness text with no chapters or paragraphs. Has anyone read it and can advise how to approach it?

message 16: by Ruthiella (last edited Dec 03, 2013 04:27PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 272 comments I haven't read any Will Self...sorry. I hear you on the experimental however! I am reading Finnegans Wake...which doesn't make any sense to me most of the time. I did it as a 5 page a day read along with a group here on goodreads and I was amazed by what some of the other readers were able to elucidate. Most of what I "get" is Joyce's obsession with sex.

I did not notice the lack of quotation marks in Wolf Hall but I do remember having to think very hard about which "he" was meant.

Mantel clarifies this in Bring Up the Bodies (apparently because people complained) by using “he, Cromwell” instead.

message 17: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) | 135 comments Thomas wrote: "Michael, in some ways I think there is a voyeuristic quality to some confronting reads. The same thing that makes us rubber neck when there is a traffic accident or watch footage of the twin towers..."

I felt this about The Gargoyle. I found the graphic descriptions confronting but was convinced it would end in redemption or something interesting. When the book stuttered to a halt I realised the author simply got his jollies from writing about pain. It made me feel dirty and I have been a lot more cautious about confronting books since then.

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