Thursday, 30 April 2009

Does incest sell?

The best book I’ve read this year has been Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It has also been the most taboo. Since inhaling it (a very addictive read), I’ve also read the books: Byron in Love, Shadows of the Workhouse, Kafka on the Shore and The Other Boelyn Girl. One thing they all have in common is … they involve some sort of incest. Now I must assure you I don’t have an incest fetish and this run of books I’ve been reading must be a bizarre coincidence. Or is it? Have authors and publishing houses worked out something quite intriguing. Does incest sell? My guess would be, yes it does.

Take a look at some of the major headlines in the past year or so. They’ve included the horrific Fritzl scandal and the Sheffield case. These crimes are utterly deplorable, evoking revulsion in your average media-consuming citizen. Anything written on Fritzl will make the ten most viewed articles on news websites and the case took up a lot of online and broadcasted news, not to mention dinner conversations. In the way we watch a horror film or become sticky beaks at the sight of an ambulance or passing by a car wreck, we will still want to know about these stories before turning away in disgust. The cases I’ve mentioned are evil but still there is a strong desire for the reader to know more and to condemn it.

Of course, the incest covered in the five books I’ve mentioned haven’t involved rape, or torture (besides a dream scene in Kafka on the Shore). In fact both parties wilfully consented to these illegal acts. And while I look upon sibling fornication with disgust and horror, something quite extraordinary happened when I read Middlesex. I thought, ‘how unfortunate that he fell in love with his sister and what bad luck that their son then married his cousin and this resulted in their child being a hermaphrodite’. My nonchalance may appear odd and I never imagined that I could be so empathetic to something so … well … gross. It’s quite remarkable and it’s why I am a voracious reader, constantly looking for my next fix. As soon as I've finished a book, I'm on to the next, barely stopping for air. Through various books my opinions continue to change and develop. For me, that’s the sign of a brilliant book. It makes you view something in a way you could never imagine you would. Having said that, I do need a break from books with incest. I’m going to start reading something a bit lighter and less sexual. Perhaps one of the classics, like a Jane Austen novel. I've always wanted to read Emma. Oh wait …