31.1.11

How Pathetic is your Fallacy?

     Pathetic fallacy is a somewhat clichéd device, most often seen when a distressed person walks around in the rain or a happy couple frolic in the sun, but something I like to do as a reader is create my own i.e. read books in locations that reflect their content, location or tone to enhance my enjoyment of them.

     I spent the last week in a tiny Austrian village near Salzburg and it was as you might picture it – epic mountains, rustic detailing, piles and piles of snow. You might think of this is the ideal place to splash out on winter sports kit and go play in the snow, but seeing as I definitely do not ski, and everyone else in the party does, for me it is the perfect place to read. So, rather than packing skis and helmets, I packed my snow boots, a notebook and oodles and oodles of books.


Your Voice in My Head: A MemoirFirst of my list was Emma Forrest’s ‘Your Voice in my Head’, which has only been out of few weeks and charts the author’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her therapist and her own issues with failed relationships, self-harm and depression. It sounds like a bit of a dirge but I assure you it isn’t; Forrest is shockingly honest, self-deprecating and brave, and New York provides the perfect cracked hipster background to a story punctuated by recognisable characters (hello, Colin Farrell), eccentric family anecdotes and viscerally described suicide attempts. It reminded me a little of 'Shanghai Baby' in that way. Of course, though, it’s lonely, isolated and sad, which doesn’t describe my feelings whilst away (too much glühwein for that), but fit quite nicely with my days spent wandering solo around a mountain town which has the same linguistic echo of a country I spent a lot of time alone in (hello, Germany) and within which I am a fleeting visitor and, for the main part, very much on the other side of the looking glass. I got really quite pensive some afternoons, sat in Café Bauer, gazing out of the window, reading about her scars, but that’s perfect as I am feeling what she wanted to convey in its writing. Writers only want to connect, I think. I devoured it in just over a day, having whole days to spare, and, combined with my sugary/chilly/cosy/caffeinated surrounds, I became a little hypnotized and a little obsessed with the next page, next page, next page, which felt like the Cola light version of what was going on in her head. Snapping out of her mood that evening, once back with the rest, was hard, but spending time in someone else’s sadness helps you see it’s delicate shades and appreciate when yours is warmed into nothingness, which is what often happens when someone brings you a heisse Schokolade or some huge plate of Kaiserschmarrn or Spätzl…

Doctor Zhivago     The second book I read, and am still reading actually, is ‘Dr. Zhivago’, the Pasternak classic. I’ve seen the film a hundred times, and adore it, but had never read the book so asked for it as a birthday present (from more than one person apparently-oops). Anyway, the mirroring of surroundings took on a more physical bent with this second one, as the glistening, knee-deep snow provided the perfect aesthetic hook back to Russia in 1915 and the way that Lara drew a blanket around herself when cold didn’t really seem any different to the way that at that moment that I was almost losing myself within mine. Within the first few pages I found, to my utter delight, that Dr. Zhivago contains the type of the sweet melancholy that lends itself to solitude and sub-zero temperatures, and is so characteristic of the book’s form, nationality and age. It might not be the same reading it in the UK, where (currently, anyway) the cold is not biting, food sources don't have to be searched out and firewood doesn't have to be gathered and paced. Now, please don’t think that my holiday possessed the misery of Moscow under siege, but when Tonya turned up her collar I could turn up mine and when Yuri found a log for them to burn on their stove I placed the pre-chopped wood so kindly provided by the farmhouse into the Kachelofen (the big tiled stove), eventually admitting vague defeat and buying firelighters on the third day. Food had to be searched out at restaurants nearby, our plain wooden table, hand embroidered tablecloth and solitary candle could have been their table, tablecloth and candle, und so weiter… It might sound a little silly, but I don’t think creating your own moments of pathetic fallacy whilst reading are really that pathetic at all :)

    After the success of this holiday, I might next try travelling to Louisiana and sitting in a bar with Sookie and Charlaine Harris, or hitch-hiking across the American West and pretending I’m Jack Kerouac (although he certainly has some very questionable friends)…


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