Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Losing and Finding Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan
Where to start? Well, even though I should probably start by discussing the book, Corrigan made one comment that I feel ties perfectly into my previous discussion of The Pillars of the Earth and my short note about Oprah. While discussing a certain style of memoirs, Corrigan states that despite their flaws, they are "infinitely preferable to [her] than the victimhood that's displayed in so many autobiographies today, or the widespread sense of entitlement our culture fosters" (170). I feel like this sums up so well what I was trying to say about a certain part (though not all) of the novels and books that make up Oprah's Book Club. It just seems like quite a few of them are about that "poor, victimized" woman (or man, but woman is more common). I think they also celebrate uplift and community, but there is still that initial idea of victimization. There is a book by Eva Illouz that discusses the Oprah culture called Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery - I think the title pretty much says everything.
I have to admit, the title alone got me (discussing Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading Now, although Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery is also catchy). Described as a memoir in books, the book is definitely heavy on the book and light on the memoir part. Not to say that she doesn't share anecdotes of her life, or give a basic outline, but her focus is much more on talking about how books affected her life and her relationships than her life. She draws similarities between her life, her friends' lives and books but not in a minute way - rather she focuses on the larger themes that prevail in both, for example the idea of waiting which occurs a lot in women's lives and novels, especially before the second women's movement. She discusses her love of detective novels while writing about work, stating that these are some of the few novels to actually be about work itself.
Reading this basically felt like having a discussion about books with a friend. She closes the book with a list of her favorites. While I doubt I'll look into any of the detective novels, some of the others look interesting. I also saw a few that I'd read and liked quite a bit on her list. As far as the detective novels are concerned, I'm not looking down on them (as she says, they're often seen as beach reading); rather I have my own genres that I read despite the occasional thought that maybe they aren't quite as intellectual or literary as what I should be reading - my genres tend to be historical fiction with a random fantasy novel or even piece of chick lit thrown in.