Sunday, November 24, 2013

Comfort Reading

Avid readers of this blog will remember that some months ago I was having a romance with cortisone. I was writing songs for it (Just a sharp shot of steroids/ helps the misery go down,/ the misery go dooown, /the misery go down). I was stopping strangers on the street and asking them if they had had cortisone shots. Alas, it was but a fling. Cortisone dropped me as quickly as Britney Spears abandoned that high school sweetheart she married.

I have now moved on to Orthovisc, a substance that replaces knee fluid. I’ve had two injections. I got the second on a grey, cold, blustery day and found myself practically keening from pain both before and after the procedure. I know what you’re thinking: “She writes songs about medication; she accosts total strangers on the street and she keens and howls when in deep distress. Steph sounds like she’s up for a whole lot of fun. How can I get to know her better?”

Yes, I have been miserable but I always keep two things in mind. I don’t have a job that forces me to talk to Ted Cruz on a daily basis and books can make almost anything better.

Here are some my favorites for a sour mood:

Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor novels. I know that a man who begins his day with a double Jameson’s and 2 Xanax doesn’t seem like a natural role model, but his life is always much worse than mine and he survives.

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin. This is one of my favorite mysteries and features the Oxford don, Gervase Fen. And if your work setting doesn’t really allow the use of profanity, you’ll find exclaiming “Oh, my fur and whiskers” keeps people guessing.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle. While searching for food, a bear finds a suitcase that contains a manuscript. He takes it to Manhattan and becomes a huge (in more ways than one) literary celebrity. If you’re not happy about the state of publishing, this is the book for you.

Any short story or novel by P.G. Wodehouse. I do find that people either love or loathe Mr. Wodehouse. I think anyone who can write sentences like this should be venerated: “Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, ‘So you’re back from Moscow, eh?’”

The Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope. I’m currently re-reading Framley Parsonage. Big questions loom. Will Mark Robarts the vicar become tainted by his association with the Duke of Ominum and the crowd at Gatherum Castle? Will Griselda Grantley marry Lord Dumbello or Lord Lufton? Will the bishop’s wife, Mrs Proudie, ruin her husband’s career by appearing to wear the clerical apron in the family?

After I read Kate’s blog from a few weeks ago, I purchased Sprig Muslin.

I’d love to hear about the books that other people turn to in times of distress.

© 2013 Stephanie Patterson


  1. If your comments about physical distress are real, not just excellent pieces, ( since I've never met you I don't know...) you have my undivided empathy and sympathy, Steph. When I need a tender balm on my aches and pains, I turn to a novel that has one of my favorite characters, usually a man like John Corey or Mitch Rapp or Jake Grafton, a book that has a peaceful, uplifting ending and tune out the agony of the limbs and muscles and all that inner stuff! tjs

  2. The pain is, alas, real. Thanks for your suggestions, Thelma.

  3. Steph, I agree with you about Jack Taylor. Never heard of a man to take all those beatings and survive to finish the novel...Once, reread 'The Pawnbroker, by Edward Lewis Wallant; the pawnbroker, a Holocaust survivor whose family didn't, was as badly off as anyone can get--a rival to Jack Taylor and to the nun in 'A Flag for Sunrise' by Robert Stone. Love those novels. Can't be rereading, however, when all those books piled up around me keep hollerin' for me to pick 'em up.

  4. Steph, trite as it may seem, I reread Jane Austen, over and over. I tell myself I am going to figure out how she did it: brought her character by one amusing, completely natural scene after another to a point where conflict assaults her. Two outcomes are available, but she cannot hope for either--guilt awaits her on one hand and despair on the other. I try to read analytically, but then I just get lost in the story. I think it is time for me to reread Persuasion as my Austen for this year. Thanks for sending me there.

  5. I am always happy to send people to Jane Austen's neighborhood.

  6. Bob, there is that constant pull for me of do I re-read when I have many (many, many) new ones, but I have decided I will read all of Anthony Trollope before I shuffle off the mortal coil. That will be a mixture reading and re-reading but the siren song of unread books is always a powerful one