A shadow on the soul

Over in the comments thread at ‘The Last Ditch‘ the subject was Solzhenitsyn, whose work I am currently revisiting, having been introduced to that author during my latter school days with ‘One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich‘. Tom, thoughtful gentleman that he is, warned me that too much reading of that particular nature makes for a ‘dark soul’ and introduced two authors he recommended as a counterpoint.

Now generally speaking, whenever I’m feeling a little gloomy I gravitate to my Terry Pratchett collection, or pick up some P J O’Rourke, Tom Holt, sometimes Peter Ackroyd or even the Satires of Juvenal, but I’m always willing to look at new sources from the lighter heart of literature. So, off to the library I will trot later this week for a scan of some John Irving or Haruki Murakami, to see if I like their style or not.

As for darkness, well, we all have a trace of that don’t we? At least, anyone who has stared down both barrels at life and noticed that the safety catch is most definitely off. It marks you, but then I’ve always tended toward the gloomy or stoic. With my family background I think I came ready stained, as it were.

But the question I’d like to raise is this; can reading really darken your soul, or do your literary choices simply reflect who you really are? Or is this just my jet lag still talking?

2 thoughts on “A shadow on the soul”

  1. I believe that your book choice, or film choices, can impact on you as a person. You may laugh and disbelieve but every bit of information you process changes you. That is why people are so thick and illogical now. All their thinking is done for them and passed over.

    Reading about serial killers improves your serial killer skills, you won’t make those mistakes. Reading about politicians lying, and getting away with it, makes you want to, well… make changes.

    Reading about how these nice people from abroad enrich our lives and are mistreated by these evil racists make us want to help them

    You need a balance and imo you also need to make some areas out of bounds for your own sanity.


    1. It may be partially true, yet I’d say this; to many people at first contact I’m a sarcastic, irascible man with an extended vocabulary and icy heart. Rude, brusque and short tempered. I’ve even been described as being bombastic and cruel. But only by people who insist on poking their long, ignorant noses into my personal space uninvited. To anyone else I’m polite diffidence personified.

      My reading choices however reflect my truer self as a gentle soul who is a connoisseur of old gags and vintage comedy. Hell, I even get much of the humour in Shakespeare. Indeed, while able to binge read Solzhenitsyn, with it’s dark documentation of the Soviet system, that only serves to confirm a pre-existing prejudice against totalitarian collectivism.

      In light of those statements I’m tempted to observe that perhaps one’s reading choices simply reinforce what is already there. An effect, not a cause.


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