Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Likely Event of Literary Connections

There's a frisson that comes from encountering related passages in entirely unrelated books that I just happen to be reading at the same time. Yesterday I finished two: Patrick deWitt's Undermajordomo Minor, a dark fable set somewhere in central Europe during the steam-powered era, and the audiobook of Judy Blume's In the Unlikely Event, realistic fiction set in New Jersey in the 1950s. In each story is a character who ends his emotional torment the same way.

What follows will not spoil either of the plots, because these are minor characters and the excerpts do not identify them. Both describe a socially-sanctioned form of suicide: men who intentionally sacrifice themselves during wartime action.

"At last he simply ran towards their cannons, and that was the end of him." -Patrick deWitt.

"He walked into enemy fire, didn't he?" -Judy Blume

While I wouldn't describe myself as someone who seeks out books set during wartime, war does come up often in the novels I read. Mental health, on the other hand, is a topic I do look for in fiction. I had not expected to find it addressed in these two novels, but I was pleasantly surprised. Blume and deWitt incorporate mental health issues throughout their respective storylines. I enjoyed both books very much.

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