I was in our local branch of W.H.Smiths this morning and noticed that they now have three whole shelves devoted to the genre of 'Tragic life stories'. Coincidentally, today's Guardian has a feature by Esther Addley on the rise of 'misery lit'. This is one cultural phenomenon that I really don't get. Who reads this stuff - and what kind of pleasure or stimulation do they derive from these tales of unrelenting childhood suffering?
Even more astonishing than seeing row after row of these books, with their pale covers and pictures of wide-eyed tearful children, was noticing that John Cornwell's Seminary Boy and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel had been shelved under this new category. Are these really 'tragic life stories'?