Two days ago, I wrote 1,875 words in a single sitting. That has not happened in a very long time, and I'm not sure when it will happen again. (Unless I get really excited about one of my upcoming academic essays, which is unlikely.) Those words were written for a short story which (hopefully) will be available for purchase on Amazon before the year is out.
I have a single college friend, and I brought up my short story in conversation with her. The story is rather sad--I mentioned as much. I wish I could remember what she said that made me laugh. It might have been something like "Story of my life--Depression," which actually fits. And then, of course, our professor starts class and introduces us to Shakespeare's tragedies.
It was mentioned that literary critics seemed to prefer Shakespeare's tragedies to his comedies. One of the students mentioned that critics seem to like sad stories in general, to the point that only depressing books are required reading in schools nowadays. It reminded me of a quote I'd run across online a few years ago: "If you do not have depression, the school will provide you with some."
This got me thinking about the books I've read as part of my own education. My high school years were a fragmented mess curriculum-wise. I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, which I highly recommend as an excellent book. I then switched to dual credit college classes, where I read lots of short stories and old novels that ended with a main character's death. Daisy Miller was brought up by one of my classmates. It's a tragic romance, but I don't particularly remember feeling bad for the dead heroine. The Scarlet Letter, though--I felt bad for the reverend. He was such a sympathetic character.
And then comes the college professor I still don't care for, with her penchant for war stories and apocalyptic fiction. She was my unpleasant introduction to the horrible worlds of Margaret Atwood. Reading Oryx and Crake during a global pandemic gave me anxiety. I'd literally have to stop reading the book because it stressed me out too much. That's to say nothing of The Walking Dead, which, for some reason, my professor found important enough to include in her syllabus. I read a graphic novel and watched the first episode. It gave me nightmares.
And then there's Ernest Hemingway. Ernest freaking Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls is the only book that has made me fall asleep--and my mother used to suggest I read books at night if I had a hard time falling asleep. I hated the ending. We spend all this time with Robert Jordan, and we don't even get to watch him die.
The saddest book I've ever read was actually a children's story, and it wasn't for school at all. It was Bridge to Terabithia. I had borrowed it from Uncle Louie (my first-generation Italian great-uncle who's the male version of Sophia from Golden Girls and turns 91 next month) and was trying to finish it at a family gathering so I could give it back to him. I was sitting there in my cousin's backyard with tears dripping down my face.
Writing, I know, is a form of creative expression. I've noticed myself projecting my own insecurities and struggles onto my characters; perhaps they've helped me work through my own problems. Perhaps I'm not the first author to do this. And maybe readers, when they pick up a book that's sad in a way they've felt sad before--maybe they feel sort of that same way. Maybe there's a sense of "Hey, I'm not the only one who feels this way. There are other people like me. I'm not alone." And maybe that helps them feel better.
What's a sad book you've read recently? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to review us on Amazon!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.