My posts during April form part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I will be writing to a theme: book genres, largely taken from the comprehensive Goodreads list.
I'm not sure this is exactly a genre but, it has long been something I find unattractive, largely in the visual medium. As a reader with a lively imagination, I avoid the horror genre entirely (yup, I'm a self-acknowledged wuss!)
But I cannot get away from the fact that some books will contain violence as an intrinsic part of the storyline. I understand that some particularly gory and grisly descriptions and depictions can be required in order to set a scene, but I find it difficult if they are lingered over too lovingly, or if the story appears to be about nothing more than the violence.
Two recent examples of this for me were Booker contenders from 2015 - the winner Marlon James' "A Brief History of Seven Killings" and Hanya Yanagihara's "A Little Life".
The first is essentially a tale of violence, as one could expect from the title. It tells the tale of a violent time and place - and there is no doubting its veracity. But - for me - the writing simply held a mirror up to the violence; I couldn't see an underlying point being made, nothing being explored or examined. It was violent, in the same way as it was crude and misogynistic. Before I go any further with the critique, please let me say that this is a very good book. Nevertheless, I believe it is an indulgent book - in many ways. If by cutting the length, we lost the excess voices and violence, I believe the book would've been more powerful - a truly great book - and one that more people would read. Frankly, there are so many voices and so much violence that even after cutting, the point being made about the violent nature of the place and time, will still be crystal clear.
"A Little Life" is another 'marmite' book which I know has split readers. The story contains details of childhood sexual abuse and adult self-harm - and for many, this tilts the book too far into the misery memoir arena. Others - myself included - found the details included to be necessary, as it builds up a picture of why the main character is so filled with self-loathing and despair that he finds life a burden. Otherwise, when we read about Jude - our central character - having close and loving friends who accept his need for privacy and his refusal to disclose his past history; having a doctor who knows the full story of the harm done upon his body by others, and continues to care for him despite knowing the harm Jude does to himself; his building of a tremendously successful legal practice; his finding more close friends (a couple) who grow to care for him so much that they ask to adopt him - as an adult - to provide the family that he (and they) haven't been able to have; with yet another friend offering him the chance of living in a home that could keep him secure and finally his closest friend's disclosure that his love for Jude is romantic and not just platonic - otherwise, it makes no sence. When a character is surrounded by so much love and acceptance, what has gone before needs to be spelt out in order that we can understand why - to him - it is simply not enough to heal the hurt. "A Little Life" is a book raw with emotion - also not easy to read - but where the violence made sense of the storyline.
I think this has clarified for me where I draw the line with violence: its inclusion must add to the story and not be the story.
How do you feel about violence? Do you have a line too?