The Sunday Salon – Comfort in a Sea of Change

The Sunday Salon.com

It’s inevitable, I suppose~change.  I’m surrounded by it these days, and the changes I see belie the swelling of new buds on my trees and the lawns suddenly awash with green.  A large part of my life involves elderly family members, some of them drawing nearer to that most elemental change, the transformation from life into death.  It’s painful to watch, and it makes me angry too, for there is suffering involved, more suffering than is warranted or fair to these people whose lives have been lived simply and evenly.

So I’ve searched for some comfort in my reading this week, especially after reading Coventry, a book which, though lovely and beautifully written, was poignant and sad, and simply fed my own melancholy in regard to sadness and loss.  Alas, my library yielded little joy in the way of comfort books ~ perhaps I simply didn’t know what I was looking for.  But I pulled the latest novel by a old favorite off the shelf – Off Season, by Anne Rivers Siddons.  

Years ago, I read every one of Siddons novels, and in fact, many of the worn, creased paperback versions are buried somewhere in my basement book stacks.  Colony and Peachtree Road  were among my favorites, and I read them each multiple times.  One of things I loved best in reading these books was the locations.  Some of these novels are set in the new South, while others describe the east coast seaside lifestyle, for which I’ve always had a serious longing.

But the novels that came after Colony seemed pale to me ~ the story lines suddenly seemed stilted, the characters not quite fully realized.  

Has that happened to you?  That an author whom you’ve once loved suddenly no longer captures your interest?  I’ve experienced it since Siddons…with Jodi Picoult’s novels, and even to some extent with the mysteries of Elizabeth George (who made me just plain mad with the outcome of one her most recent mysteries).

But I decided to give Off Season  a try, hoping for a story that would engage me and take my mind off my own problems.   I was skeptical during the first few chapters, but I persisted.  Now mid-way through the book, I’m interested enough in the story to finish it…it reads quickly and it successfully diverts my thoughts from nagging worry and sadness.  But I’m still oddly dissatisfied with the writing.

Perhaps my reading tastes have simply changed? Although most of Siddons characters now are women of my own age, I can no longer identify with them the way I did when I read her earlier novels.  Has my age and experience, not to mention all the hundreds of books I’ve read in the years since I loved Siddons early novels, given me a taste for more complex writing?  Have my reading tastes matured, as the oenophiles taste buds do with years of sipping fine wines?

Which all brings me round to my first statement…change is inevitable.  Sometimes it happens that the things which once satisfied completely no longer do so. 

At any rate, I’m about to make myself some favorite comfort food on this Sunday morning…. good strong coffee, and crisp toasted white bread with lots of butter.  Butter never fails to satisfy.  *smiles*

May you all find comfort today with whatever change life is bringing you.

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21 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon – Comfort in a Sea of Change

  1. “Has that happened to you? That an author whom you’ve once loved suddenly no longer captures your interest?”

    Oh my goodness, yes it has! I’m never quite sure if it’s because I’ve changed, or simply that I’ve read and re-read the books so many times that I’ve gleaned everything I can from them.

    It sounds like you’re going through tough times. I wish you all the best!

  2. I am sorry you are so melancholy – I know what it is like to watch family members decline (my father is slipping into dementia and it is very painful to watch)…so my thoughts are with you today.

    I also read Colony years ago and loved it, but have not had another book by this author touch me in that way (and I had such high hopes for her too). My reading preferences have definitely changed over the years – and although it is a little sad to say good-bye to some “old” authors, I have found new ones to love.

    Have a good day! Comfort food is the best!

  3. This is a marvelous question — why does a writer’s work, work that once felt satisfying, no longer satisfy? And the answers are various — some writers get stuck, I think, or they try new things that don’t work and sometimes a writer’s work seems superficial as your own understanding of the world deepens. Your post makes me want to re-read Anne Tyler, who’s always felt to me like such a sophisticated observer of families, and see if she still feels like that way to me.

    But one thing that never does grow old, as you’ve pointed out, is toast with butter. And for that I’m grateful.

    I’ll be thinking about you this lovely sunny day and wishing you some moments of calm and peace and a good new book to comfort and inspire.

    xo

  4. “Has that happened to you? That an author whom you’ve once loved suddenly no longer captures your interest?”

    YES. I used to LOVE Dean Koontz, but now his books have gotten so preachy and overly sentimental. I understand that he’s trying to add meaning to his work instead of simply writing thrillers, but he’s turning into what one Amazon reviewer aptly called “the Thomas Kinkade of horror.” Hopefully, he’ll learn how to be more subtle.

    Your first paragraph was so beautifully yet sadly written. I hope things get better for you soon. This is the best Sunday Salon post I’ve read so far.

  5. Oh yes…this has definitely happened to me. There was a time I loved every single book Nora Roberts wrote, but in recent years, not so much. I still find good books, but not like I used to.

    I definitely believe my reading habits have changed. There was a time I would read every paranormal that came my way, now I’m very selective about which ones I read. I don’t love them as much as I used to. It’s weird how that works.

  6. Your first paragraph says it all, and beautifully. I am sorry that you are experiencing such difficult hours.

    I, too, have found that some authors I enjoyed when younger do nothing for me now–seem superficial and trivial at best. Several mystery writers come to mind. Others, of course, deepen our understanding of life no matter how many times we read them. I wish you more of those; they are the ‘butter’ on the toast of reading.

    Take care.

  7. I’m sorry that you’re in a tough place right now. Sometimes old age is graceful and sometimes it sucks and there is no fairness about it. Yes–I think our tastes change and so does our knowledge, hopefully we know more! LOL. I always found comfort in Anne Tyler’s books because her characters, odd though they be at first, grow and find new life. That optimism is something I love in any book, but it only works if the writing is good, too.

  8. Change is inevitable but sometimes brings an unwelcome sadness like the type you so eloquently write about today. I am sorry that it weighs on you right now.

    Have had the same experience as you with writers outgrown. Have thought before that it sometimes has to do with formulaic writing that I tire of as much as anything. Maybe I would still appreciate certain authors if they deviated from the routine approach from time to time?

    Today I am reading Unaccustomed Earth. Happy reading!

  9. Changing tastes in books isn’t a bad thing. I’ve definitely experienced it. It’s kind of sad, though, to revisit a favorite author and find that he/she is not so highly estimable to you as in the past.

  10. Poor Becca. I can’t bear the thought that one day I’ll have to witness the mortal suffering of those I love. It IS intolerable, and I’m not sure what literature is really up to soothing the soul at such moments. Either something perennially amusing, to take the sting out of living – EF Benson or Nancy Mitford, maybe. Or else something that respects the deep melancholy – Paul Auster, Pat Conroy, I’m not sure. Maybe they’d be wrong too. But whatever you read, at such times it has to be really good, I mean, brilliant, if it’s to do its work of distraction.

    I send wordless but sympathy packed hugs.

  11. Becca, what a touching entry. I hear what you’re going through and am holding your hand across the miles.

    And yes, what’s up with Siddons? Also loved “PEACHTREE.”
    Same for Elizabeth Berg. But who has been steady and solid as a rock? Anne Lamott. If you haven’t read GRACE EVENTUALLY, give it a whirl. I don’t mean to sound didactic, only comforting!

  12. Becca,

    This is such a tricky time of life—I feel these aches as well. I understand what you have written so gracefully.

    And as for changing readerly habits: I suspect that you, with your keen, sifting mind, began to outgrow some authors a long time ago. Because with each book you read, you see more deeply.

  13. Interesting you say that was your experience with Jodi Picoult. I devoured all her novels after discovering her about 18 months ago, and this weekend bought a new one at the airport, only to realise that I have an unread book on my shelf (Change of Heart) – admittedly purchased with a bunch of other books at Christmastime, but still… how could I have forgotten? There have been other writers that I’ve lost my taste for – Perhaps the style of writing just becomes repetitive, and a break is necessary, or maybe it just is hard for a writer to stay fresh all the time.

    You raise very interesting questions here, Becca!

  14. Becca, I understand your pain at watching loved ones suffer. Just take the most you can from each day.
    On the litaerary topic, I think it would be sad if our tastes didn’t evolve, and we were stuck reading the same books by the same writers. As we read more, we become more demanding, and that’s good.
    I wonder about all the young girls who are infatuated with the Twilight books. What will they move to? And when?

  15. I can sympathize with you in the unpleasant task of watching those we love suffer. Reading can be a nice diversion when it’s the right book. I have found myself losing interest in authors I once loved. For me, I think it is usually a case of just becoming tired of them — the style, language, etc. It is usually not the author, but rather me.

  16. That seems to be the case to me for Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake, which I perused with such scrupulousness that I almost dropped all my chores. I attempted few of the short stories from Unaccustomed Earth and perceived that most of them follow a formulaic formation. They become like stories pumping out of a can.

  17. Ah, I know the feeling so well of wanting to dig deep into comfort books when life around us seems to be chaotic, sad, etc. I am sorry you have to watch relatives suffer. Sending you some virtual hugs.

    And, yes, I do think reading tastes change. I used to be such a fan of Isabel Allende and her last few books just haven’t left me feeling as satisfied any more. Is it me? her writing? who knows really. I hope you’ll find a wonderful book to at least lose yourself in for a little while.

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