Sometimes I think there are two kinds of readers: readers for whom books are bread and coffee, and readers for whom books are magic mushrooms. The bread-and-coffee people prefer to read about real life (marriage and parenthood, vocations and vacations, adultery and war), while the magic mushroom readers live for the shadow in the corner, the mysterious figure on the train, and the eerie music floating over the darkened lake.This comes from a review of The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows, an anthology edited by Marjorie Sandor. The book sounds wonderful — thirty-one stories that cover two centuries and sample the world, including a couple authors I particularly admire, China Miéville and Bruno Schulz. (You can read Sandor's introduction to her anthology here.) I'm very likely to pick up a copy to have on hand in the event of a dark and stormy night.
But it's the dichotomy of book readers that my mind keeps wandering back to. Hands down I'm a magic mushroom kind of reader. But I've noticed a disturbing trend in my reading choices of late — easily half of the year's reading to date is books directly about love gone wrong, marriages gone bad, and almost all of them tangentially so.
It was purely coincidental at first, reading I'd lined up before Christmas, before everything soured. Then it was a subconscious draw. And now I'm realizing the full value of bibliotherapy, of living lives other than mine, of living variations of my life, of examining marriage (all marriages, not just mine) from all angles. Now I'm seeking these books out. It's been somewhat cathartic, it's kept me remarkably steady, but it's becoming obsessive, like picking at a scab.
As much as I love the magic mushrooms, I think sometimes my body and mind are telling me I need bread and coffee, just for a little while, for grounding. (But not too much; I'll have to fly again sometime.)
What kind of reader are you? Are your books bread and coffee, or magic mushrooms?