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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Cheap holiday reading in other people's misery

What books shall I get the family this Xmas? Not much in my Amazon shop at the moment (although reader, please help yourself). So let's have a look at the new Book Clubs Association catalogue catalogue.

Generally I'm an admirer of extraordinary people. Since when does being a victim make you extraordinary? Page 14 of said catalogue is given over to such folk. There's Maria Housden, who recounts her daughter dying of cancer at age three. £12.78 gets you 'three shocking, true-life memoirs about child abuse' (The Kid, Out of the Dark and Sickened). Richard McCann's mother was murdered by the Yorkshire Ripper, leaving him and his sisters to be 'passed from from one violent home to another'. No list of this kind would be complete without the three volume set of Dave Pelzer's grumbling about his childhood, plus his Privilege of Youth, an account of high school so harrowing he only just remembered it. (Three cheers for Andrew Calcutt's Beat, which accounts for the genre of 'autopathography' in just a few pages, saving readers from tackling the canon in its entireity.)

Truly extraordinary. Fortunately for me, my parents were great when I was growing up. Still are - supportive, helpful, the works. This has obviously nobbled my chances of writing a bestselling memoir, but it also means I love them too much to inflict any of these grim tomes on them during the festive season.


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