We have no contributing diarist this week, so we'll have an open forum instead. Those of you who have read a book that changed your life and would like to contribute a diary, please kosmail me. I have a template that makes it very easy to write a diary! You need only write three paragraphs and the template tells you exactly what to put in each one. Just think--contribute a diary and you may find yourself on the "Rec" list!
We’ve all experienced reading a book that is so gritty or downright gloomy that we need the equivalent of brain bleach to cleanse our minds. You know what I’m talking about—the kind of book that leaves you with the mental equivalent of a nasty taste in your mouth.
The cure for this is to retreat to a comfort zone in which all is always well, a place we’ve been to before, a place where we know we’ll find balm for our bruised spirit.
For me, the work of James Herriot is such a comfort zone. Reading about the everyday joys of a country vet’s life, his occasional heartbreaking cases, and the ups and downs of his family is pure escapist bliss for me. And his descriptions of the Yorkshire dales bring tears of nostalgia to my eyes: I’ve been to the north of England and seen some of the places he talks about. For me, a thousand words is often worth a picture.
Another comfort zone is Pride and Prejudice. Somehow, an orderly world in which certain events are always conducted in the same way is very soothing. If one is in Bath, one must be seen in the Pump Room; young gentlemen must be presented to young ladies before the latter will consent to dance with them; visitors never burst rudely into one’s house but are announced by servants. Good manners are practiced by both gentry and aristocracy, and certain proprieties strictly observed.
Of course I’m not so naïve is to believe that real life in those Yorkshire dales of the 1940s and 1950s was idyllic: there were probably no women vets or vets of color, and if there were gay veterinarians they were most likely closeted. There were probably plenty of people who had serious objections to that society in that time and place. The same is true of Austen’s England: the people who made the good manners of their “betters” possible, the servants who got up at oh-dark-thirty to clean out the ashes in the fireplaces and light new fires, who lugged hot water and tea trays up the stairs to their employers, or who labored in the kitchen to provide those lavish meals, probably didn’t find the situation comforting at all—just a lot of endless hard work.
But for soul-cleansing, these escapist comfort zones do exactly what I want them to do. They restore my faith in human nature and make me feel a hell of a lot better.
Enough about me. What’s YOUR comfort zone? What book or books do you regard as an antidote to novels of utter hopelessness and anomie? What soothes your soul, delights your leisure hours, comforts you like a pair of soft, well-worn slippers?
Come, the brandy is poured, the fire stoked; the cat purrs on our knee, the dog snores on the hearthrug. Tell us about your comfort reading!