Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Misery Lit: Making Its Authors Smile

The past ten years has seen a huge increase in the publishing of 'Misery Lit' -- lurid, true-life tell-alls often revolving around the author's rape or torture or self-mutilation or something similarly horrific. While the trend started off as an off-shoot of the traditional biography, it has since morphed into something much closer to pulp fiction...only without the fun dialogue, memorable characters and great cover art. While no one knows how long the trend will last sales-wise, the long-running success of The Jerry Springer Show attests to the number of folks who are ready and willing to write their woes for the world to read. After all, it's not only a therapeutic release, it's a possible money maker, as well.

Esther Addley has written a piece in the Guardian UK on the newly minted genre, and while she begins by trying to take a properly/predictably solemn approach to it, you can feel her suppressing the urge to call the lot of them a bunch of shameless, exploitative, self-aggrandizing exhibitionists throughout. Towards the end of the article though, Addley abandons any appearance of unbiased journalism and begins poking a bit of fun at the writers of Misery Lit, as well as their employers. Here's an excerpt:

"The only challenge for editors, in fact, is to find enough dreadful tales to feed the market. Happily, after their first book proves a surprising success, many successful authors, like Pelzer, find they have another volume in them. Kathy O'Beirne and Howarth are both currently writing sequels to their first memoirs. As for Glass: 'HarperCollins and the agent were saying, 'Have you got another story to tell?' and I said, 'Yes, I have got quite a few.'"

Yes, these suffering artists are "happily" discovering that they have "quite a few" untapped tragedies still left to write about, and their editors are delighted. That means that we as the weary and emotionally battered readers will soon have experienced enough secondhand horrors to write Misery Lit novels of our own -- about the reading of Misery Lit novels! Talk about the sexually abused snake eating its own drug addicted tail...