Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today's BTT:
Today is the 7th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I know that not all of you who read are in the U.S., but still, it’s vital that none of us who are decent people forget the scope of disaster that a few, evil people can cause–anywhere in the world. It’s not about religion, it’s not about politics, it’s about the acknowledgment that humans should try to work together, not tear each other apart, even when they disagree.

So, feeling my way to a question here … Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read? Personally, I used to enjoy reading Tom Clancy, but haven’t been able to stomach his fight-terrorist kinds of books since.

And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news?

Though lately I find myself inadvertently (or subconsciously) reading books or stories that use 9/11 as a backdrop or focal point, I don't know how much that event has affected my perceptions of book villains.

I've always been able to differentiate between vampires and serial rapists, so I don't think the terrorists changed that. Granted I was never all that into Tom Clancy books or those novels that use world politics as a theme, so maybe I would view fictional terrorists under a 9/11 lens now, I'm not sure. There are all sorts of evils, it's not just a real or fake dichotomy.

Perhaps the only affect 9/11 has had on my reading has been increasing my non-fiction choices. Not all Noam Chomsky material or seriousness either, but it did slightly steer my attention away from the unreal.

I suspect even more time will need to pass before we are able to assess how it's affected us all as individuals and societies.


SmilingSally said...

You're right; more time needs to pass.

Lisa said...

Personally, I don't want to read anything that has any link to 9/11 whatsoever. I guess it's just still too close for me.

jlshall said...

It’s interesting that you say the events of 9/11 have made you more likely to read non-fiction. If anything, I think it's had just the opposite effect on me.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm not certain if these events have impacted my reading choices, as I was never likely to choose books that deal with those sorts of villains anyway. But I know that circumstances can affect my reading of a book. If I am going through a bad time, mentally, it will colour my enjoyment of a book.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it has made me read more of Chomsky and likes of him.

Fiction, not much.

Thanks for your comments on my blog post. I know I got a bit emotional there but I can't help that.

For your other readers who wish to visit my blog:

Villainy is not the right word

Anonymous said...

I think that the problem is with the term 'villain'. For me, that inspires nothing more than a
caricature - The Joker or The Green Goblin or one of Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum's shady terrorists. Consequently, I don't connect these fantastical figures with the living and breathing troubled human beings that commit atrocious acts like the 9/11 attacks. The real terrorists are much scarier because they deny easy resolution, because they are still human - frighteningly like us. I'm not normally a thriller reader (though an occasional action movie watcher), but I think that those kinds of books are in fact just an extension of the comic book dynamic - the bad people are easily identifiable, rightfully punished and peace and order are restored (at least until the next book). What's scarier is to read good literary fiction that explores a similar topic: Take Uzodinma Iweala's Beasts of No Nation, a first person fictional narrative about a child soldier and its haunting last line, which occurs after he has confessed his actions to a psychologist “it will be making you think that I am some sort of beast or devil…I am all of this thing. I am all of this thing, but I am also having mother once, and she is loving me.”

John Mutford said...

SmilingSal: Especially since it's still having repurcussions.

Lisa: I don't actively don't seek out such reading material, but lately I've stumbled upon a lot and I don't avoid reading it either.

Jlshall: I think it triggered something in me to want to be more aware.

Barbara: It's not so much empotional upheaval that colours my enjoyment as it is upheaval in general. It's sometimes simply too hard to concentrate.

Gautami: It's an emotional topic. And as I said on your post, your reminders were important, especially to those of us living on this side of the globe, to note.

Kirbc: There's something about the word "villain" that conjures up moustache-twirling. And God knows real terrorists are much scarier than that. The Uzodinma Iweala book sounds quite intense.