Tuesday 18 January 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

One of my favourite things online is the top ten lists that The broke and the bookish produce every Tuesday... I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of the reasons I wanted to have my own blog, so I could take part in all the fun of listing! Anyway, since I'm so behind the times in this, clearly, I'm going to start with one from a few months ago (oh yes, that far behind) because it was one of my favourites, and one I actually did, albeit with paper and a pen, and only for myself. So, without any further ado,

The Top Ten Books That Made Me Cry

1. The Green Mile- Stephen King. I can't remember ever crying at a book before I read this, so Stephen King has a lot to answer for. There's just so much injustice, so much suffering and so much horror (but not the kind of horror that you'd usually expect from King) that all you can eventually do is start sobbing in frustration at what you know is going to happen, but are powerless to stop. I'm pretty sure that for the last hundred pages or so I had wet cheeks, and I think my copy is still soggy from my tears. I already thought that capital punishment was a bad idea, but I am even more convinced now, considering who it is used to kill in The Green Mile. I think I knew the ending before I read the book too, which made it even worse since I knew this really really bad thing was going to happen and there was no way it wouldn't not happen, as much as I wished it wouldn't. Clearly I'm still traumatised by it today! The movie is also heartbreaking, and I can't listen to 'Cheek to Cheek' now without crying a little bit...

2. Flowers For Algernon- Daniel Keyes. This is probably not a book that a lot of people would cry at, but it just touched something inside me and left a (sad) impression on me for weeks after I read it. It is essentially the story of a man with learning difficulties, who is given the opportunity to be like other people (I hesitate to say 'normal' people), but ends up surpassing them in intelligence and alienating everyone, which is only slightly worse than his realising that when he wasn't clever, everyone just laughed at him, rather than being his friends, as he believed them to be. It's ostensibly a science fiction novel, but my attachment to Charlie is such that his inability to emotionally connect with the woman he loves, combined with his eventual heartbreaking reversal had me weeping by the end of the novel.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- J K Rowling. I think my attachment to Harry Potter had reached such heady levels by the time the seventh book came out, that the suggestion that it was possible for him to die tipped me over the edge and set me off crying. Also not helpful: reading the entire book in about 7 hours without coming up for air or a little bit of perspective so that I forgot that the whole thing wasn't real. Yeah. Ahem. But still, his parents and Sirius and everyone turning up in the woods like that? Beautiful, wonderful, tearful stuff!

4. The Dark Tower- Stephen King. Stephen King has this apparently huge power to make me cry, but this book really broke my heart. Like Harry Potter, it's the last in a whole series of books (that, if you haven't read yet, you really really should. Even if you don't like horror. Even if you don't like books!) which just makes it worse when certain things happen that I won't tell you about because the books will all be ruined, but suffice to say that after all of the emotional energy you have put into reading the fuckers, the last one will hurt like nothing else has before. Personal embarrassing anecdote: I read one of the most traumatic episodes of this book in the bath, and I couldn't bear to stop until it was over so I was just laying there in the ever cooling water snivelling away until I was done. I was so glad I was alone in the house...

5. The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood. I will never stop recommending this novel to other people, even though it emotionally drained me from all the feminist rage and despair for the women in the book. I think I cried so much during this because of a complete lack of perspective, in that I had to keep pulling myself out of the story to remind myself that this is not how women are actually treated, and nor is it a situation we would allow (by we, I mean women, because I have no doubt that there are certain groups for whom the scenarios in the novel would be ideal!) This emotional reaction did somewhat cloud my thinking whilst reading the novel, however, so it was quite a draining and traumatic experience! I just wanted to go into their world and rescue all of the women stuck in the pleasureless, gynophobic world that the book presents to us.

6. Maus I and II- Art Spiegelman. I count graphic novels as actual books, and I think quite rightly judging by how absolutely spectacular this one is. I haven't read all that much Holocaust literature because I think my heart would shatter into a million tiny pieces if I read it all the time, but if this is anything to go by, it must all be spectacular and depressing and make you question any underlying prejudices you may hold (except for ones against Nazis) all at the same time. Also, it must make you cry. This is essentially the author's father's Holocaust experience, and at every stage of the horrors that they go through, I simply have to blink and I am crying. Powerful stuff.

7. Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck. There is no upside to this novel. Reflecting a world that is horrible and terrible and without redemption, Steinbeck makes his two heroes, Lennie and Carl, lurch from unliveable situation to unliveable situation. They are never allowed happiness, and the end is so crushingly terrible that I can barely think about it without tearing up a little bit. This is one of those stories that feels so real that you think about the characters afterwards- how they have gotten on, and if they are able to live with themselves afterwards. On the plus side, it is of course spectacularly written, because how else would you fall in love with the characters and care so much about their fates? This can, of course, be said for all the novels on this list!

8. Animal Farm- George Orwell. This is a novel that mostly just makes me pissed off at totalitarianism, but there is just one incident, involving the horsey representation of the common man that really gets me going. I would hate to spoil this for anyone who hasn't read it, so I won't say anymore, but it is a truly emotional moment in a novel filled with rage at oppression.

9. It- Stephen King. In case you haven't guessed yet, I'm a huge fan of Stephen King. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be or not considering my degree in English (well, half my degree), but I don't really care about that- to me, every emotion that can be felt, Stephen King has made me feel, and any list I make will, most likely, include something by him on it. 'It' is debilitatingly terrifying, and I credit it with giving me fears of *deep breath* clowns, drains, sinks, tramps, photos that could potentially move, sewers, Maine, and giant evil spiders. More than that, however, in its more than 1000 pages, it has moments that make it absolutely necessary for you to cry. Ben's loneliness, Bill's sorrow, Richie's underlying vulnerability; all of these things are enough to make anyone start weeping with misery at any given moment, having just wanted to scream because you're so scared of the damn clown! What King does best, I think, is really embrace every emotion in his writing, knowing when you need to be scared, but also knowing the best point for some sorrow and heartbreak, because these things can actually be scarier than all the monsters in the world.

10. Angels in America- Tony Kushner. This is a play, but because of my freaky student-of-literature mentality, I sometimes read plays instead of watching them, that's just how cool I am. Usually, plays need to be performed for their full impact to be felt, and indeed the HBO miniseries of the play is one of the greatest things I've ever seen (and also makes me sob whenever I watch it). However, even without the performance aspect, Angels in America is one of the best things I've ever read, and I'm a girl who likes pretty flowery prose a lot. It's a really difficult play to describe, especially for me because I just love it so damn much, but it's essentially about a whole group of people who are in crisis in their lives, either because they are running away from who they are, from things they can't cope with; or because they are trapped within debilitating illnesses that allow them no escape. Add into the mix some actual angels, and the whole thing sounds ridiculous, but it's actually one of the most amazing things I've ever read, and it is also intensely sad, and eventually uplifting, which then makes me cry even more. Just trust me, it's well worth reading, or, if you find reading plays too weird, you should watch it immediately if not sooner!

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