“Down into that deep and fearful well” — Pamela Erens on why she likes to read depressing books

Pamela Erens by Kathryn Huang  Eleven Hours

Pamela Erens is the author of The Virgins, The Understory, and the recently-released Eleven Hours (all published by Tin House Books). In this short essay, originally published on the We Heart Writing website in the UK, Erens explains the reasons behind her preference for reading “depressing” novels.

My novels have never been called cheerful, optimistic, or especially funny (I happen to think each has some chuckle-worthy bits, but only the rare commentator points these out.) Some readers find somberness a failing, in my work or in any work of fiction. They want to know why any author should expect them to suffer through something “downbeat” when life is already hard enough.

Reading tastes are subjective, certainly. I would never say that there are right and wrong reasons to read. Some readers want an experience assuring them that people can master their circumstances, that happy endings are possible. They don’t want unsoothed sadness. These readers are naturally irritated when they stumble unawares into a narrative that portrays certain kinds of hardship, particularly emotional hardship, as unremitting.

I am a different kind of reader….

Read the rest of the essay here.

We Heart Writing is produced by the team behind Chicklit Club, and is for people interested in writing, publishing, marketing and blogging. With a special focus on women’s fiction, the articles range from how-to’s that take you from concept to selling your product, to guest posts from authors as they share their tips, insights and personal journeys and features aimed at the burgeoning book blogging community. 


One comment

  1. I, too, have been attracted by these types of books. The author did a wonderful job of explaining the value of these truthful stories and how they illuminate our common humanity. Thanks for reprinting it here. Michelle


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