A few days ago, I finished reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (yeah, I know, so the fashion right now, but I once heard Marieke Hardy say it was very good and I trust her - and she was right) and it's only this afternoon that I can even bring myself to really think about it.
I travelled along Revolutionary Road with Yates, certain of what the outcome was going to be from the beginning and not wanting to have to endure it. But his words are so beautifully crafted and without pretension and honest, even though honest was the one thing his characters could never be with each other, nor themselves. They head to inevitable disappointment and ruin, and reach it through their own egotistical belief in their own goodness and selflessness, when all along they're the most blindly selfish people in a myriad of ways.
That book, that damn book, has made a kind of fear rise up inside me and tap against the back of my throat like an unwelcome visitor walking up the driveway. It's the kind of fear that, if I let it sit there uncontrolled for too long, could morph into hysteria, or depression, or a deep, deep sadness. It's the kind of fear that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Murakami), The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), Post Office (Bukowski) managed to inspire in me and it's a fear that I'd rather not suffer, thanks anyway.
It's not that the authors necessarily mean to write such ultimate desperation into their works - often they manage to construct tenderness and empathy towards their subjects; Murakami develops great humanity in his relationships, Salinger speaks the fears we share and Bukowski's women, though shrill and irritating, and despite his treatment of them, draw great affection from him too. It's the hopelessness of the characters and their lives that really get to me.
Sometimes I hate fiction. I really do. I didn't read any fiction for years and years because I used to find that I couldn't deal with it. It's much easier to open characters out and leave them raw when they're simply characters and not people you need to be accountable to. People who live, or who have lived are left with some shred of things unknown and unknowable (except Florence Broadhurst, who sounds quite unforgiveable, despite living such an interesting life).
Ahhh, but it's all so beautiful too - vulnerability always is I think. Beautiful and sad and petrifying.
Maybe I should just stick to Maggie Alderson and Di Morrisey?
Then again, maybe sadness and fear aren't so bad after all...