All This Darkness! What to Buy The Grownup Reader? (A Parody)

Note: this article is a parody of the stupidness going on over here: Darkness Too Visible, by Meghan Cox Gurdon


Contemporary fiction for grownups is exploding with explicit abuse, violence, depravity, scandal, lies, casual sex, crime, conspiracy, oneupmanship, financial ruin, loose morals, overt glorification of generally bad ideas, and boobs.

Why is no one talking about this?

I recently stood slack-jawed in the adult fiction section of my local big box book store, having decided that supporting my community while getting personalized recommendations by professionals who generally adore books and make it their business to know exactly what sorts of things a reader will love was just not on my to-do list this year, feeling stupefied and helpless.

I was searching for a gift for a grownup friend (at the risk of sounding tokenistic, some of my best friends are grownups and I have a great relationship with “the grownups” as a whole), but at every turn, my poor and tired eyes were met with red-and-black covers with proclamations in huge typeface that screamed IMPENDING DOOM. The titles alone gave me instant nightmares: BURIED PREY? SIXKILL? THE FINAL STORM? THOSE IN PERIL? It was all, like, conspiracy and apocalypse and vampires, murder and incest, thinly veiled racism that seriously undercuts our upstanding moral code as a nation — especially when it comes to the impressionable sensibilities of our country’s adult population.

I was astonished and more than a little appalled, frankly, that adult fiction had gotten so dark. How dark, you ask? Well, as a person who doesn’t actually read adult fiction, and doesn’t remember what it was like to be an adult, and in fact categorically looks down on adults as out of touch and unable to think a single original thought without their mass media drip feed, I’m obviously very highly qualified to answer this question: adult fic is so dark, why, just writing this blog post about the darkness requires a sun lamp, a clove ciggie, and a bottle of chilled Bombay Sapphire, lest I become apathetic and socially disengaged by all the dark-mongering and partake in some totally grownup coping mechanism like, IDK… spawning an illegitimate child with my housekeeper, tweeting pictures of my crotch and lying about it and then not lying about it, sexually assaulting a hotel staff person, shooting at people with an AK-47, deciding that forced sexual intercourse isn’t actually rape if the woman said no but didn’t physically fight back, taking away health benefits for the really old people, causing the collapse of the free market economy, or any of the other “that’s sooo grownup” activities I’ve read about in today’s news. It’s so dark that in a single book, let’s call it Martin’s GAME OF THRONES, the first few chapters alone cover the alarmingly black topics of incest, rape, slavery, beheading, something with magic wolves, dragon eggs, forced marriage, poisoning, and native women dressed in all-too-revealing animal skins, every curve described in such excruciatingly vivid detail that the book may as well be called GAME OF BOOBS.

If books are a lens unto the world, the adult section at my local big box bookstore is a magnifying glass unto the ass of the ant of decency, people. Obviously not every book aimed at tender-minded grownups is pure evil, but for the careless old reader, or one who actively seeks out licentiousness and vice (yes, those rare tainted souls certainly exist in the world of grownups, much as we’d like to stick our heads in the sand and pretend otherwise!), the path to the wicked world of horrendous literary indecency and exalted iniquity is a mere swipe of the overextended debit card away.

I mean, look at Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD. Total effing downer, man! Books like that are why people like Harold Camping ring the doomsday bells every few years. He probably picked up that story looking for a fun armchair travel read, or perhaps hoping for a movie-still of Viggo Mortensen’s naked ass (who hasn’t! That movie was called Eastern Promises, though, FYI), getting instead a bleak tale of violence and cannibalism, roving gangs of rapists and murderers, death and mayhem and utter hopelessness on every page. Rapture? Don’t bother. Might as well just off yourself after reading something like that, bud.

Speaking of gratuitously morally bankrupt books made into movies, have you read Dan Brown’s bestselling THE DAVINCI CODE? He practically accuses Holy Mother Mary of cashing in her V-card. Talk about blasphemy! And what’s up with this Sookie Stackhouse person, anyway? Come on, Charlaine Harris! Don’t you know that grownups are feeble-minded, easily spooked, and downright impressionable? You think you can just write about vampires and sex and sex with vampires and not impact — dare I say, shatter — the entirely too delicate worldview of adults?

I realize these authors believe they’re validating the grownup experience, giving comfort and succor and a real voice to an otherwise subverted, subjugated, sublevel subgroup. But hasn’t anyone considered the obvious fact that such stories, rather than validating a terrible yet ultimately rare experience, in fact normalize a collective thirst for blood, no pun intended? Feed the flames of sickness and immorality? Infect the weak-minded with negativity and self-loathing? Give otherwise good, well-meaning grownups some really bad ideas, the consequences of which the soft folds of their brains simply can’t comprehend?

Honestly, folks, let’s call this complete lack of censorship and mind control what it is: lazy, lackadaisical, inexcusable buck-passing in an era where none of us wants to claim any responsibility for ensuring that our adult population survives this difficult transition. You’ve all heard the rhetoric: it’s not our job to raise other people’s parents — their own kids should do it! Their bosses and teachers should do it! CNN should do it!

No, friends. I’m afraid it’s down to us. For if not we — the wise and knowing and all-presumptuous — who will take a stand against authors and publishers and booksellers who insist on filling the heads of old people with filth, flarn, and smut? Who will save the lives of those endearing yet ultimately etiolated adults who learn how to commit rape in books like BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA or how to fake a nervous breakdown after devouring THE BELL JAR? What if they read the original, unedited version of THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN and learn the dreaded n-word? What if Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD inspires them on a road-tripping, poetry-writing, substance-abusing bender?

If it’s true what the experts at the Wall Street Journal (that bastion of journalistic integrity and forward-thinking) say, “Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it,” then frankly, I’m concerned for our future as a people. Because if authors and publishers and booksellers don’t stop shoving misery and depravity down grownups’ tender pink gullets — if they can’t come up with more appealing, relevant, and appropriately non-dark works of substance for the adult reader — if they can’t write and sell stories that stop encouraging rampant extramarital fornication, brutal criminal acts, the rape of our natural resources by corporate giants run by hapless adults, and the near-complete and utter effing-over of society by a bunch of grownups in suits who obviously learned the how-tos and justifications of bad behavior from novels glorifying such debauchery and turpitude — the adult reader, and those slack-jawed gift-givers like myself, will be forced to make the most immoral, appalling, and dangerous choice of all: to shop in the YA section.

Let’s all pour a little out for the collective loss of innocence, shall we?

*Takes another swig of Sapphire.*
*Spits on the floor*

37 Responses to All This Darkness! What to Buy The Grownup Reader? (A Parody)

  1. Mandi Barnett says:

    This is utterly brilliant, Sarah. One of the best rebuttals to that pathetic excuse for journalism I’ve seen yet.

  2. Andy says:

    Loved the “GAME OF BOOBS” comment! Does that mean the series should be called “A SONG OF NIPPLES AND CLEAVAGE”?

  3. Stephanie says:

    Absolute perfection. And I’m one of those poor adults, forced to shop in the YA section. Okay, not really. I shop there by choice and love it and hope to find my own depraved YA novel sitting alongside the others someday.

  4. farfalla says:

    This. Is brilliant.

  5. Victoria says:

    Lo! For the innocent days of A Clockwork Orange and a bottle of Nesquik to wash it down. Bloody hell.

  6. Ditto! And what a brave post! It is so nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way about the overuse of the depraved titillation factor. Is it horrible that I’m to the point where such violence (and such)just seems trite?

    Thank you so much for this post!!

  7. FANTASTIC! I was nearly choking as I read that – thankfully I stopped myself since there is no one around currently to give me the heimlich ;)

  8. Caitie F says:

    Effing brilliant! Can you win an award for best blog post?

  9. Oh my gosh, this is absolutely fantastic.
    *clicks the invisible like button*

  10. I may never read adult fiction again. Thank you so much for this!

  11. Hannah says:

    Hilarious! Can you please make a paraody of that horrible part where she divide books up by gender? That part made my brain explode.

  12. You may owe me a new job if my boss comes into my office and sees me rolling around in an epic seizure of giggles — mumbling “Game of Boobs” between fits.

  13. Sarah, this is a brilliant post, except I think you could have used one more sweeping generalization about books you haven’t read. Maybe you could squeeze one in toward the end? Just to even things out with that WSJ article…

  14. You had me at Game of Boobs.
    Actually you had me before then, but I wanted to type it, too.
    I hope the author of the WSJ piece reads this.

  15. Kellye says:

    Oh, Sarah…..yes, yes, YEEEEEESSSSSSS! *thrashes wildly*

  16. Missy says:

    “Game of Boobs” – please, deal me in.

    *fancy bow*

  17. steepholm says:

    Great post, but speaking as someone with adults in my family, it would be really useful if you could provide some suggestions of suitable books to buy them – preferably in two lists, one for men and one for women (because God forbid they should ever read the same books!).

  18. Chris Barton says:

    My brother is 43, but he’s reading at a 48-year-old level. What books do you think he might like? He is an accountant.

    Otherwise, this is as terrific as it gets.

  19. Fantastic! I linked to it on FB! Thank you!

  20. Sondy says:

    As a librarian, my favorite line was “having decided that supporting my community while getting personalized recommendations by professionals who generally adore books and make it their business to know exactly what sorts of things a reader will love was just not on my to-do list this year,” Your post is awesome! And puts the other one completely in perspective.

  21. [...] A parody of the article written about adult fiction. [...]

  22. Sara Megibow says:

    Seriously- nice post Sarah!

  23. [...] of the original article, written by Sarah Ockler on her blog. The blog post is called, “All This Darkness! What to Buy the Grownup Reader? (A Parody)” This parody was completely successful with me once I read this paragraph right at the start: [...]

  24. Jenny says:

    You are so awesome. <3

  25. Abbi says:

    My god, this is the best thing I’ve ever read. YES.

  26. Zoe says:

    This is incredible!

  27. [...] after this story went up, I read All This Darkness! What to Buy the Grownup Reader (A Parody) by Sarah Ockler, a pretty funny piece about how condescending Gordun’s article is. One of my [...]

  28. Gayle says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Especially love what grown-ups may learn/adopt from reading this awful stuff, like spawning an illegitimate child with housekeeper, tweeting pics of crotch & lying about it (“I don’t believe that is actually a picture of me.” Gad!), sexually assaulting a hotel staff person, shooting people with AK-47 (Totally against my mom’s advice, “Don’t hurt people.”) etc.

  29. [...] All This Darkness: What to buy the adult reader (a parody) by Sarah Ockler [...]

  30. [...] All This Darkness! What to Buy The Grownup Reader? (A Parody) « Sarah Ockler, Author: “” [...]

  31. SusanK says:

    Just loved this – thanks so much!

  32. scrivener212 says:

    Thank you. I nearly burst a blood vessel over the WSJ article. You nailed this on the, er, tender adult places.

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