As some of you may know, I signed up to follow the Parnassus Bookstore blog, Musing, almost as soon as it launched. I follow its editor, Mary Laura Philpott, on Twitter too. It’s a fun way to keep up with literary happenings in my daughter’s adopted city, Nashville. And a recent post on Musing made me wonder if I had ever been afraid to read something, anything. I won’t go to horror movies, but that’s different. I’m aware that I’ll read crime and mystery novels only on vacation – like the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series – but me, afraid to read something? Never!
In “Reading (and Writing) Through Fear” Philpott reviewed a book that she admits she normally wouldn’t read. The Bear, by Claire Cameron, is written from the point-of-view of a five year old; a terrified child who has just witnessed a bear kill her parents. Certainly horrific territory, and granted it is maybe a book I would pick up in a bookstore, read the jacket, and put down. Not necessarily because I’d be frightened by the content, but when you have lost a family as a child, as I did in my first year of life, it’s not something I would want to read about. In the same way that Bob doesn’t like to see war pictures, since his work is sometimes like a war zone. He gets enough adrenalin in the ER.
But then, Philpott interviewed the author. Cameron said that before she had children she wasn’t afraid of anything, but then…
…my sons were born. The first time a babysitter came over to look after my six-month old, I stood outside the front door and could barely make myself walk away. It was, I realized, a new kind of fear. It’s one that comes alongside loving someone else completely, be it a child, partner, lover or friend. The world is big. It can be scary. And I couldn’t protect the people I love at every given moment.
While I was working on the first draft of The Bear, I thought I was writing about that — the fear of not being able to protect my children from everything. After I finished, I talked to a friend about the story. Knowing me well, she said that I was actually writing about my fear of not being a parent. What if something happened to me and I wasn’t there for them? The minute she said it, I knew she was right.http://parnassusmusing.net/2014/03/06/reading-what-you-fear/#more-660
So I bought the book. Because it’s always interesting to see how an author finds the authentic magical thinking voice of a child. And because I knew I was deep-down afraid to read it. And the only way to keep growing, is to challenge that fear.
And today I’m going to read The New Yorker article, “The Reckoning” by Andrew Solomon, about his interview with the father of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer. This really scares me, but I hope that some insight for some struggling parent out there will come through his words. When I heard Solomon say on a news show that Adam’s mother Nancy was more interested in Adam having a “good day” instead of a “good life” it sealed the deal. Sometimes a parent can live in so much denial, they begin to believe in the insular, sclerotic world their child has created. A world in which the bear is the child himself.