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Mis-lit and God

The rise of misery literature (or just memoirs of abuse) has been well documented recently; the epitome of this genre within the last few years are titles like McCourt's Angela's Ashes and Pelzer's Child called It and their follow up titles. The requirements for titles within this camp are abuse - mental, emotional, physical and sexual - preferably all. Add a big dollop of humility, real or otherwise, and a black humour apparently so indicative of the Irish people in particular, and you should fit right in. But this genre is far from new. The Victorians had a few memoirs of the Hard Life from the just literate serving classes. These also coincided with a creeping despair in the late Victorian era that came from a growing doubt in God. God, for many in the light of Darwin, was dead; even, had never existed at all. And this was reflected in the literature, Arnold's Dover Beach, and in the well known memoir by Edmund Gosse about the fallacy of his father's extreme faith in His word, and not The word of rationality. Where am I going with this? Well, like the Victorian era I think there can be seen a not insignificant relationship between the rise of these genres, mislit and God is dead, and what we are currently seeing. Like mislit, books on atheism are doing well at the moment, Dawkins in particular. And yet these genres are doing well despite the just as strong boom in their opposites - books on healing and happiness, along with finding a spirituality. I suppose the thing just is that extremity of opinion and experience and certainty of purpose sells. How about a middle of the road memoir of middling experiences from an open agnostic? But then we'd be moving away from non-fiction and entering the realm of most middling fiction.

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Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
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