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Home > Culture and Society

Britain's Bookworms: Misanthropic and Death-Fixated

2 March 2007

Jesus, Britain’s readers are a miserable, bitter bunch. Judging by the ‘100 books you can’t live without’ as voted for as part of World Book Day yesterday, we like our escapism full of death, grinding misery, war, death, disappointment, disfigurement and death.

Take a look at the list. ‘Jane Eyre’ - a main character is blinded and crippled by his mad wife. ‘Harry Potter’ - an increasingly grim burlesque of murders and maimings. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ - they kill the mockingbird. The Bible - where to start? Let’s just say that after page after page of war and suffering, the main character’s son is tortured and nailed up in a grisly death scene.

Then there’s ‘1984’, the nightmarish, dystopian satire that’s become a handbook for western governments since The War Against Terror was declared. There’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’, possibly the most over-rated book ever written and tome of choice for Beatle murderers and permanent adolescents everywhere. And then there’s ‘The Lovely Bones’, where a raped, murdered and dismembered 14 year-old narrates from the afterlife, ‘The Remains of the Day’, where a repressed butler devotes his life to serving a Nazi sympathiser when he could have been knobbing the housekeeper, and ‘Dracula’ where a Eurotrash goth is done in by a Dutch doctor. It never stops. There’s bodies all over the place. ‘The Great Gatsby’ (shot), ‘Rebecca’ (murdered), ‘Anna Karenina’ (suicide by train), ‘Hamlet’ (dithers, shags his mum ...possibly - and is then poisoned), and ‘Winnie the Pooh’ (crystal meth addict and spree killer who turns the gun on himself).

The final miserable proof is the presence of *three* Thomas Hardy novels in the list. Hardy was a bastard who took delight in grinding his characters into the shit. In ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, the eponymous country girl Tess gets ideas above her station, is seduced by a utter cad, marries another man but is abandoned and is executed for said utter cad’s murder. ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ sees the wilful Bathsheba Everdene getting ideas above her station and marrying an utter cad who fakes his own death. He then reappears and murders the repressed farmer who is wooing Bathsheba and she ends up reluctantly marrying the yokel who proposed to her in chapter one. In ‘Jude the Obscure’, the titular stonemason gets ideas above his station, marries a right cow, fails to get into university, lives in sin with his cousin and dies after his son commits suicide. Hardy’s hateful running theme was that the lower classes should know their place. Anybody who reads him for pleasure is a pervert.

Where the hell is the Gruffalo when you need him?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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