Why is literature so miserable?

Between reviewing, critiquing, research and work commitments, it seems like I rarely get to read a book just because I want to. But every now and again I get the desire to read something purely for pleasure. And quite often when that happens, I want to read a book that I might loosely describe as ‘happy’ or ‘warm’. Something with a sense of humour, an intriguing plot, deep characters and most of all a positive worldview. But I still want all those literary qualities I generally demand of a good book.

(It has just been pointed out to me that I am basically describing a grown-up, literary version of Sesame Street, which may very well be true.)

Maybe I am hard to please (actually there is no maybe about it, I am incredibly hard to please) but ‘warm’ books of this kind are hard to find. It’s not that there aren’t great books in the world, but so many of them tend towards the maudlin, negative, pessimistic and downright miserable.


Is it something in the lives of great prose writers? Are they fundamentally sad people who express that in their work? Or do we think that to say something profound we must adopt a cynicical worldview? Or is it in the nature of good fiction, that its internality leads inevitably to a certain misery? Or do we simply live in a terrible world about which it is impossible to say anything both meaningful and cheerful?

In other places less angst ridden…

Jeffrey Ford has a blog. Go and read it.

Some people won Nebula Awards, and John Scalzi is the new president of the Science Fiction Writers of America.