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Depressing Literature Makes One Woman's Life Not Seem So Bad

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-03-20


There are certain books I like to read when I want to know someone is in worse shape than I am. I've faced a very stressful last few months, and escaping into someone else's misery makes me realize, "okay, things COULD be worse." Here are a few books I turn to when I'm depressed or feeling hopeless:

"Slaughterhouse Five," by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Billy Pilgrim travels back and forth in time, but can't control where he goes or what he'll be doing. He slogged through World War II, and ended up being a successful optometrist, but that doesn't stop him from being kidnapped by an alien race called the Tralfamadorians and ending up being an exhibit in one of their zoos. I guess it's not too horrible for him; his companion is porn star Montana Wildhack. But his other travels aren't so good. Sometimes he's back in WWII, witnessing the horrors of what went on. I read this book when I'm depressed, but there are some hilarious lines in here. Vonnegut describes Billy's wife's wrecked Cadillac as a "body and fender man's wet dream." Pilgrim's daughter is described as being fairly pretty, but has legs like "an Edwardian grand piano." This is a wacky, funny, wrenching book and a great escape.

"Gone With The Wind", by Margaret Mitchell. I finally got around to seeing what the big deal was with this book. It was one of my mother's favorites, but I never really appreciated the work that went into both the novel, and later the movie, until I became an adult. I admire Scarlett O'Hara's somewhat scheming personality to make sure that she never went hungry again, no not her nor any of her people. She was a take-charge woman, and wasn't above stealing her own sister's beau to make sure Tara was saved. That time-honored profession of being a whore still pays off today, though most women try to get normal jobs in order to make ends meet. Still though, I can sort of identify with Scarlett's return to Tara after the Yankees looted Atlanta. Her mother died, her father is a shell of the man he used to be, and only a handful of servants remained and Scarlett has to take care of them all. Not knowing how to do anything useful, she learns eventually how to run a house, and when the tax man comes a knockin' she gets Mammy to sew her a new dress and they take off to Atlanta to see if she can bum a few bucks from Rhett Butler, successful war speculator and gambling man. He'd like to help her, but can't. But hapless Frank Kennedy comes along, and Scheming Scarlett eventually gets her money, though it involves having to be a whore (in the legal wedded sense, not the single sense like a mistress) and a mother for the second time. Despite everything, Scarlett can't have the man she truly thinks she loves. She never did get Ashley, but did she get Rhett back? Alexandra Ripley wrote a sequel to GWTW but I can't remember what happened.

"Alive", by Piers Paul Read. What's tastier than a Uruguayan rugby team? Lots of things, it turns out. But when your chartered plane crashes in the Andes, and no one thought to pack much for lunch, that's pretty much your only option. After reading this, you'll never want to fly over mountains again. This story is about a group of rugby players and assorted friends and relatives who journey to Chile for a game or two. However, the plane crashes in the Andes mountains and it took them two and a half months before the strongest of them walked, climbed and suffered their way to rescue. Extreme cold, avalanches, starvation, dehydration, strong sunlight and altitude sickness were just a few things the group had to deal with while trapped on a mountain with only a broken airplane for shelter. When I think things are bad for me, I only need to pick this up and be grateful I have a cozy home (paid for) for shelter and my real or imagined fears are actually quite petty when compared with the Andes survivor's ordeal. Still though, the fact that some of the survivors got out lends credit that a high-protein diet does do a body good.

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