The Epoch Times is a free newspaper distributed from racks in the grocery store down the street. It's available locally in Chinese and English but online there are links to editions in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Romanian, Bulgarian, Slovakian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Swedish. The paper has print editions in some of these languages as well.
The publishers don't admit to association with any organization, but in addition to consumerist boosterism and China-bashing on nearly every page there're a lot of articles about Falun Gong and the PRC's persecution of its practitioners; and every issue carries a column encouraging benighted members to quit China's communist party. It's the sort of propaganda one might imagine the CIA would fund, if the CIA did that sort of thing. I don't know, I'm just saying.
Last week's edition carried a story titled "Hunting Happier Stories - in the Teen Section." The article started off this way: Today's mainstream adult fiction revolves around cancer, war, murder and aging parents; at least five recent bestsellers had the word "dead" in the title. Some readers are fleeing back in time.
The gist is a claim that adults are seeking out Young Adult (YA) fiction because it's less complicated, not so depressing, happier. Like many arguments advanced in this paper, the thesis of the article is supported by anecdote: In an age when adult novels deal with sobering subjects — cancer, murder, aging parents, war — at least five 2009 bestsellers had the word "dead" in the title — Sydney Stadler, a Texan mother of two, thinks adults are yearning for less emotionally-draining books. [...] Lighter subject matter also attracts Summer Barnett, a fifth-grade teacher from Plano, Texas. "Life’s depressing enough," said Barnett, 33. "I don’t want to read about politics or religion, and I like the kind [of book] that can take you away from the world you’re actually in."
Is this a Texas thing? (No, the article cites readers from New Jersey and Connecticut as well.)
It is true that adult fiction often orbits sober subjects. Kind of like life. But consider this:
At the San Francisco Writer's Conference this year I pitched my current novel manuscript to a number of agents. No, I'm not going to blog my pitch, but I will say that it's about a collective of political activists, and that things don't turn out well for the protagonist. I'll wager Summer Barnett won't buy my book.
One of the agents victimized by my sixty or so breathless seconds of pitch -- a successful professional who shall remain nameless here -- gave me a dour look across the table between us and said, "That doesn't sound very happy." I was taken aback. No, I replied, it's not. The agent invited me to e-mail a query nonetheless, which I did about a week later. A reply came the same day: "Not for me, thanks anyway..."
I myself am not very interested in happy books. To me they don't seem true to life, and if I wanted escape I'd watch TV. You know, unreality shows. But maybe I have oddball taste.
What do you think? Is Sydney Stadler right when she says that adults are yearning for less emotionally-draining books? What kind of books are you yearning for?