I routinely read several books at once, usually between four and eight at a time. There are a variety of reasons for doing this, like fitting stories to my momentary moods, cleansing the palette, maintaining distance. But the main reason I have for mixing up my literary diet is dread. I don’t like the direction a story-line seems to be taking and so I put the book down until I’ve forgotten the situation enough to quell my emotions.
I don’t appreciate strong emotions, those caused by aggression, violence, suspense, torment, cruelty. I try to choose stories that have none of that but, to be real, that would leave me a handful of tone poems and vignettes about lost love. I do appreciate story and so I tolerate some measure of conflict. And I’ll abandon a book if it strays too far into the thriller, horror or pained directions. When I have reasons to finish a book that comes across too harshly, I ease my pains by putting the book down for a day, a week, a month, a year, for however long it takes to forget what concerned me.
What is very curious is that often times, the author has anticipated my angst and changes direction with the very next page. So I neglect a book for an extended period when one more page would have alleviated all my fears. I both applaud and chastise authors for these twists of vector. Mostly I curse them and myself. Stop toying with me. Stop letting people toy with me.
I am too sensitive. I know that all too well, but I enjoy being too sensitive. I don’t want to be hardened, to miss the subtle emotions of living an ordinary existence. So as annoying as my dread is, I won’t let go of it. I have learned to cope and that’s enough.
The hardest part, however, is that this sense of dread infects my ordinary non-literary life. I miss out on so much by anticipating strong emotions that may or may not happen. And usually don’t.