True confession

I love and adore nonfiction books about horrid tragedies. The
horrider, the better. 
Though I swear, I’m not a ghoul. My reading tastes just
trend that way.
And I have a theory about why this is the case.
I think it has to do with the fact that I am wickedly annoyed
by books/movies that drama things up beyond reason. [I also ain’t so keen on
actual people who ratchet up the drama just for kicks.] The thought, “It’s not
life or death,” comes to mind when
high drama is occurring for little to no reason. 
(Movies are the worst at this. At one point, I nearly
swore off drama in film form forever, I was so peeved at the wailing violins
that were cranking up the sadness factor in some dreadful movie that was going
for an emotional response. I was so ticked I could barely see straight. Yes, I
realize that my reaction was… dramatic.)
So when a situation is actually
life-or-death (oh, say the Titanic is a-sinking, or the Hindenburg is aflame,
or the plane’s in a tailspin), some drama is appropriate.
And the thing I love (LOVE!) is that often the drama is quite
low-key in these real-life situations.* People actually step up.
I’m talking nonfiction here. Because in fiction authors often get
so excited that there’s a tragedy
happening to my poor character!!
that they lose all sense of proportion.
Some fiction authors can pull it off, but I place my trust in nonfiction.
If there’s gonna be a tragic event in the book I’m reading, I want
it to be true.

*Case in point: George McGovern (may he rest in peace). Now, I know you’re wondering where I’m
headed with this, but stick with me. [No, we’re not going to talk about the
fact that Nixon trounced him in 1972. That was a disaster of a different sort.]
Here’s what I learned from Timothy Crouse’s The Boys on the Bus: McGovern had been a B-24 pilot in WWII.
Did.Not.Know.This. And here’s what he said to the crew as he limped their
shot-up plane back to safety: “Resume your stations. We’re bringing her home.”
I swear to God, I got teary. That’s the
way to handle a calamity, people.  

6 thoughts on “True confession

  1. The most horrid nonfiction tragedy I ever read was "To Sleep with the Angels" by David Cowan. It's the story of a school fire which killed 92 children and 3 nuns. This book will leave you in tears.

  2. There was a sportswriter who wrote a book about his young daughter who had cystic fibrosis. His description of her disease and her eventual death told in that rather muscular and unadorned prose made for a devastating read. Sorry, can't remember author or title right now…headed to amazon…

  3. Bybee — I think it's (my own true love) Frank Deford… (If I got this right, I'm going to attempt to high-five myself; will undoubtedly pull a muscle and be out of commission for weeks)

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