Terrorists aren’t just movie villains any more. Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read?Of course, I abhor the sort of wanton violence and mindless cruelty represented in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon back in 2001. I feel fortunate that I didn’t personally know anyone who was killed in those assaults, and I feel great sorrow and sympathy for those who did lose friends and loved ones. It’s a sad fact that all our lives have been changed since that day, and the world will never seem quite as safe or as comfortable as it did before that brutality exploded in our midst.
And, does the reality of that kind of heartless, vicious attack–which happen on smaller scales ALL the time–change the way you feel about villains in the books you read? Are they scarier? Or more two-dimensional and cookie-cutter in the face of the things you see on the news?
But having lived through several political assassinations and the Vietnam war, wanton violence and mindless cruelty are, unfortunately, not completely unfamiliar to me. And if I’m honest, I’d have to say that I don’t really believe the events of 9/11/2001 have had any lasting effects on my reading habits or choices. Well, maybe only in that I’ve mostly stayed away from books that are directly inspired by the terrorist attacks, or deal with them specifically.
And I don’t think the knowledge that villainy actually happens in the real world affects my reaction to it in books. Extreme violence or cruelty in books does bother me. But I still love a good scary horror story, or a hard-boiled police procedural, or a fast-paced thriller just as much as I did before 9/11. I don’t intentionally seek out books with violent content or themes, but I don’t really avoid them either. That hasn’t changed.
And I don’t think it will change. As much as possible, I try to divorce myself from the real world when I’m immersed in reading. I try to enter the world the author has created, and leave my day-to-day existence behind for a while. That offer of an escape to a new and different reality is one of the reasons I read in the first place.