I have read – count it – three (3!) books in the last two weeks that made me cry. And, boy howdy, I fought against it. I hate crying. It makes my eyes puffy, makes my contacts dry, and makes me feel like a dope.
It’s not that I inherently have something against crying. It’s just that nine times out of ten, I think tears are a waste of time. Plus, if I cry while reading a book, I become really suspicious: what was that author doing that made me cry? Huh? Were they, heaven forbid, manipulating me??
I use the word manipulate like some use four-letter words. I believe this fear of manipulation stems from a lot of writing and literature classes I had where the profs loved to talk about manipulative writers (check it, this may mean writers who made more than the profs), so I have an abhorrence of sad books, and to be honest – ditto for sad movies. I ain’t watching The Notebook, no way no how. Don’t even go there.
So after I read those three crazy books that made me first, get a lump in my throat, and second, grudgingly admit that the wet stuff on my face was saline dripping from my eyes, I had to stop and think: Are these writers bad writers because they made me cry?
In a couple of instances, the material itself was simply sad: dead children, a soldier leaving for war never to come home. I don’t ordinarily read these types of books, and by types, I mean material guaranteed to make you do the ugly cry. For one of them, Alice Bliss, I was forewarned. Elyse over at Pop Culture Nerd warned it was a tearjerker, and it was. I don’t think that makes it a bad book, partly because it was well balanced. There was enough humor that I didn’t feel overly emotional.
However, this other book (which shall remain nameless) starts out sad, goes to gut-wrenching, and leaves you, wasted and spent with tear tracks down your face. In other words, I hated it. Is that just my taste? Probably. Am I being harsh? Possibly.
Maybe I just don’t want to borrow grief. I’m the girl who, in elementary school, cried about the plight of the manatees. I can become maudlin at the drop of a hat. Books that have sadness or grief in them don’t trouble me; however, books whose entire schtick is sadness and grief? No, thank you.
You can probably tell I’m torn on this, so I’m asking you guys: What do you think? What constitutes manipulation in a book? And is that a bad thing?