Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This Book Was So Depressing I Couldn't Finish It

 Beach wedding in La Jolla.


Leaving subjects like child torture and the slave trade aside, would you not finish a book because it is depressing? How about a movie? What subject matter is just too much for you? How many books/movies have you put aside for that criticism? Do you expect every book or movie to provide you with entertainment? I don't mean that as a criticism because sometimes I wonder why I am drawn to dismal, dreary fare. I guess it all comes down to why do you read? Why do you go to see a movie?

27 comments:

Dana King said...

I don't necessarily have t be "entertained" to watch a movie or read a book; I wouldn't call SCHINDLER'S LIST entertaining. The book/movie can't be unrelentingly dismal and hopeless, either. The story may be, but the telling always allows for bits of real life to surface, and real life has hope and levity in it, even if the levity is unintentional (on the part of the character, I mean.)

George said...

I was tempted to abandon LITTLE BEE as the novel became more and more depressing. And, early on, I figured out how the novel was likely to end (and I was right). But, I pushed on to the grim conclusion. A few years ago, I had the same experience while reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Heath Lowrance said...

I've never stopped a book or movie because it was too depressing. Honestly, I'm more likely to stop if it's too sunny or optimistic-- my bullshit radar would start going off, I think.

Anonymous said...

I have quit reading many books in recent years not because they weren't well written but rather because the subject matter, setting, etc. were Just, Too. Depressing,

I know many people love Denise Mina, for one of many examples, but I just can't read her. If I want to be that depressed I'll just put on Fox News. To be honest, despite the raves and the huge sales I quit reading Gillian Flynn too. I did not want to spend 500+ pages with such unpleasant characters.

Jeff M.

Charlieopera said...

Just read Other Voices, Other Rooms and had I known what I was in for, I would've tossed it 10 into the second chapter. I like his other works, but the never-ending description in this one gave me a headache (literally). I found myself saying out loud (much to my wife's angst--she was trying to sleep): Get to the fucking point, already!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I saw AMOUR last week, which unrelentingly dismal and depressing. But because the story was told so well, so truthful to its subject I was able to see the "greatness" in it. But a companion with us just didn't see the point of putting himself through it. The other two fell somewhere in the middle. If I feel the author is brave in telling the story, if the writing is good, I will pretty well finish anything. I, like Heath, am more likely to put aside a book that just offers sunny days and optimism because it does not coincide with my world view. Not that every book I read is all doom and gloom though.

Anonymous said...

AFFLICTION - possibly the most depressing movie ever. Didn't walk out of that one.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The book was even better. And better yet, CONTINENTAL DRIFT. A big Russell Banks fan.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I am more likely to get up from a movie I find boring or depressing than stop reading a book halfway because I don't like it. I read a book all the way through no matter what. I abandon movies on television with unerring regularity, like the new KING KONG, MR. & MRS. SMITH,and the TWILIGHT series, to name some.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I abandon both. More because they scare me, or bore me or they are too stupid to finish than because I am depressed though.

Al Tucher said...

The one type of story I can't abide involves people who have no real problems except the ones they make for themselves. That's why I can'r read addiction memoirs.

Probably unfair of me, but there it is.

Yvette said...

I occasionally abandon a book if it is too depressing (although I did, to my surprise, finish and quite like THE GLASS CASTLE) or if I suspect (and check the ending to bear me out) that a dog is going to die. Or for that matter, a cat.

I'm to be spared all that since I've already gone through it in life many times.

As for movies, I cried almost all the way through BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and still I finished it and love it to this day. The short story as well. (I still cry if I re-read the story.)

I still hope for a happy ending for ETHAN FROME when I re-read the book for the umpteenth time.

I'm more inclined to read a sad or depressing book than to see a sad or depressing movie - given a choice.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, Yvette, ETHAN FROME is such a good example as is BROKEBACK. The only novel I can remember being too sad to bear was JUDE THE OBSCURE. Although since it was assigned at school I did finish it.
ETHAN FROME would be on my top ten list of books for sure.
I might be able to read about alcohol addiction but probably not shopping addiction although they probably are almost equally destructive.

Todd Mason said...

It matters more to me, as with several others here, that the serious or depressing matter is given its due. SCHINDLER'S LIST is a typical Spielberg confection, so is not a film I particularly respect (his "serious" films are even more ham-handed than his "entertainments"); Haneke's FUNNY GAMES was so self-satisfied and obnoxious in its misrepresentation that I've not made any effort to see his subsequent films...possibly my loss, and I suppose I'll see some of them eventually (though others have compared AMOUR unfavorably to similar films, which doesn't make me think that I'm missing anything...much as my experience in giving more unrewarded chances to the likes of Oliver Stone and Paul Verhoeven).

Gerard said...

Sure. I quit reading CORN MAIDEN by Joyce Carol Oates when I found out a mentally disabled teen girl was going to get abused by other teen girls. That one set me off.

Richard R. said...

I see I'm not alone in not starting or not finishing books that are really depressing. But no one else admits to enjoying sunny, happy books that have conflict, good character and plot, just not excruciating pain or depression. I have tried and quit a couple of Scandinavian mysteries because they seemed unrelentingly gloomy. The plot, characters and setting were dank, grey hopeless, pointless with no chance of any outcome by anyone. I'm not saying I only want to read about Holly Happy Haha, just that I don't want to be depressed. I seem to have even less tolerance for that than I did a few decades ago, for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Patti, speaking of alcohol addiction have you read John O'Brien's LEAVING LAS VEGAS? I'm sure you've seen the movie.

Rick, you're right. I like some of the Scandinavians but some are just too depressing to read.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Just the movie, Jeff. Is the book worth going through it again?
So many books about addiction, aren't there?
Yes, the Scandies are dark. Reading one right now, in fact, And not much sense of humor. But the writing is grand in many of them. And I like seeing how society functions in other places.
I couldn't have gotten through that one, Gerard. She is awfully dark.

Deb said...

Unrelentingly grim, over-the-top violence, or any "entertainment" that involves harm to a child will likely cause me to give up. When it comes to depressing subject matter, I think it can be presented in an interesting way. If a book is written in a way that bores me, I'll give up regardless of subject matter.

Anonymous said...

Patti, as I remember it the book and the movie are similar enough that you don't need to read it. Of course O'Brien wrote from experience.

O'Brien committed suicide by gunshot two weeks after learning that his novel, Leaving Las Vegas, was to be made into a movie. His father says that the novel was his suicide note.

Jeff M.

R.T. said...

I have tried but cannot deal with Nabokov's Lolita. Some "authorities" vouch for its canonical status. It gives me the creeps. I understand that I am supposed to buy into the narrative irony--i.e., Humbert is trying to be nice but is a monster. To hell with him! Perhaps people can tell me where I am going wrong.

Erik Donald France said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erik Donald France said...

Well, there are books and movies I thought really effective but wouldn't want to see again because too horrific (Boys Don't Cry), and there was a really bad Robert Vaughn science fiction in which aliens compelled people to commit suicide in droves, I sneaked out of that one. Almost couldn't bear the Russian roulette scenes in Deer Hunter. Some books I'll just drop, especially when reading multiple books at the time time -- but rarely.

pattinase (abbott) said...

BOYS DON'T CRY was difficult indeed. As is Humbert Humbert-what a self-delusional creep. But the writing is terrific.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - I would actually have no problem at all not finishing a book or film if it was too depressing. I would say the only exception would be if the book was so well-written and compelling, or the movie was so well-directed and acted that it was worth dealing with the sad topics.

Scott Parker said...

THE ROAD. It was a selection of my SF book club and it was so depressing, I just put it down. I didn't care (still don't) how well it's written, I didn't like it.

The movie THE MIST was a great film...until the last 5 minutes. I so, so, SO hated the ending that it ruined the entire film. I will never see it again.

Charles Gramlich said...

I probably wouldn't put a book or movie aside for that reason, but I might regret it later. Like Erik, I might not reread or rewatch movies because of this. Million dollar baby is an example.