Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Experience Is Not Your Experience

Carolyn and I share a lot of books and we've discovered that certain books we both adore and many of our DNF's are the other's pleasure.

In other words, we have different tastes.

Because we're different people.

And even if we shared the exact same lives and experiences, we'd still be different people with a different perspective on things. Which is good.

Experience and how we process it, taints everything we do and how we live it.

I cannot read child abuse because I lived it and it left such a deep scar that my experience doesn't allow any open doors regarding it. If a child is hurt in a book, usually I'll stop readng. I almost couldn't read Lisa Kleypas' Christmas in Friday Harbor because it begins with a young girl losing her mother and her pain takes her voice away. That hurt me deeply and almost ended the book for me.

Right now I'm reading a book that I'm enjoying a lot and the heroine reacted to a situation in a way that I thought was ridiculous. But a part of me recognized that I wouldn't react that way to something but it didn't mean that someone else wouldn't.

I also realize that when someone experiences something I also did but has a different reaction to it, it doesn't negate mine nor does mine negate hers.

Anyway, this is all in response to some of the tiresome criticism I've read recently where books are dismissed because the author wrote an experence or life event that didn't match the reviewers. I mean, seriously?

A TSTL heroine is just that. But a woman who loses a child might wallow in sorrow for the rest of her life. Or she might get up the next day and just get on with it. She might become an advocate against guns or disease or whatever took her child away. She might have another child immediately.

People are different. Isn't that one of the reasons we read? To experience life through someone else's eyes?


  1. (This post ties really well with SLWendy's post on relevancy)

    Yes, this is why we read--yet sometimes it's very hard to truly and thoroughly accept a different reaction to an experience similar to our own, particularly a negative one.

    This is one of the reasons why I won't even try romances where divorced couples reconcile--particularly when we are told how the divorce was a war of epic proportions. Not only did I survive my own divorce (and the three times my ex took me to court trying to get full custody of the kidlets), but I'm a child of a bitter divorce (to the point that my mother never again spoke a word to my father--even at their offsprings' weddings).

    So, despite having seen divorced couples getting back together in real life, I simply can't suspend my gut-deep disbelief on the positive outcome of such a premise.

    Now, I believe that I've tried so far in my reviews to clarify when something like this is at play and how it affects my grading/enjoyment of a particular novel, but your post will make me pay more attention to how such prejudices (which is what they boil down to, isn't it?) filter down when I review.

  2. I've never had any life experiences that would give me triggers in my reading. I've had a remarkably unremarkable life. The worst I can remember is my parents divorcing when I was 14, and miscarrying a son at 5-6 mths.

    I seem to be able to detach myself. I worked as an OR tech for many years; never had any problems with the blood, etc., not from the very first day.

    It's the same with books. I can detach myself from the action of particular scenes and read without too much emotion or involvement for the most part, trusting the author to make it all okay by the end of the book. The books I truly do hate, though, is when the bad guy is written sympathetically despite the horrors he commits. I don't want to understand evil.

    Lori mourned her mother's death and still does. My mother died when I was 21 and it may sound strange,but I barely remember her and I don't mourn her. Does that make me a horrible person?

    I don't think there's any one way that's correct. It's what works for you. Everyone has their own defense mechanisms.

    I do get tired of reading about people's triggers - so many have them - but if you can't enjoy the book there's no sense in reading it.

    As Lori said, people are different. Viva la difference.