Chris Applegate on “Grief Porn”

Chris at qwghlm.co.uk has written a piece on “Grief Porn” — the industry of writing books about someone’s unhappy or abusive childhood. As Chris’s photo demonstrates, there are whole bookshelves full of this stuff:

Grief Porn

From the article:

This is the “Tragic Life Stories” section in the Chancery Lane branch of WH Smith (snapped on slightly blurry cameraphone). There were six shelves in total (only four are visible here), dominated by one kind of book – recounting a tragic childhood blighted by some sort of disease, endemic poverty, a bitter divorce, being orphaned, or (in the majority of cases) an abusive/alcoholic/drug addict parent. Or even a combination of all these.

This kind of activity falls under the umbrella of human behaviour referred to with terms such as “conspicuous compassion”, “recreational grieving”, “mourning sickness”, “vicarious suffering” – a public display of society desperate not just to empathise but also to be seen to be empathising, no matter what. The ongoing Madeleine McCann saga is a case in point (and it’s interesting to see how people have so viciously and hysterically turned on the McCanns once suspicion fell on them, rather than admit they might have been wrong).

Another example of recreational emoting — one right at the start of the current trend in such things — was when Princess Diana died.

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