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On being sensitive

January 16th, 2012

Salvage the Bones“, Jesmyn Ward’s National Book Award winning novel.

Granted, I would have known to steer clear had I actually read the book’s description:


Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.

Dying litter of prize pups. Yeah. Not so much.

So I put the book down, a mere 20 pages into it. And yeah it’s a national prize winner. And yes, after watching Treme’s first two seasons, I fervently believe that Katrina-related literature is so very important.

But I’m too sensitive for dying puppies.

The thing is, although I’ve got this soft streak, I also hate that my sensitivity often makes me feel left out. I know right now, I will absolutely not finish “Salvage the Bones”, no matter how many accolades it receives. And so, I’ll miss out on one of the most important books of the year.

Last night, I felt a little like I did when walking out of that movie theater 20-some years ago. Like giving in to my sensitive side is something to be ashamed of, to be made fun of for. And last night, like 20 years ago, I also realized that once you’ve felt that, it’s hard to un-feel it. Once you’ve read about… (edited, but it has to do with puppies)… it’s impossible to un-imagine it.

(Kind of like reading the synopsis of “The Human Centipede”. EWWWW.)

I suppose this is the catch of being an avid reader. Devouring books also sometimes means getting inside the book so deeply it’s tough to crawl out. Living in my imagination, even for a few dozen pages, means it’s impossible to un-remember those vivid words.

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