Comfort Literature

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A few days ago Don (of Mixolydian Mode) published a list of literature that he found comforting or "a nice escape." This followed from a post by Terry Teachout regarding literature he often retreated to. This got me to thinking and I decided to list work that I found strangely engaging and, indeed, comforting.

One of my selections agrees with Mr. Teachout (as I recall) the others are uniquely mine:

(1) The King James Version of the Bible, particularly Psalms and The Song of Solomon.

(2) Rex Stout (Mr. Teachout's choice)

(3) Henry James--particularly the short stories

(4) Agatha Christie (I can't explain it other than an early childhood attachment)

(5) Tom Sawyer (and only Tom among the works of Mr. Twain)

(6) My Antonia

(7) The works of Jack Vance and Clark Ashton Smith (sheer joyful playing with language)

(8) Dubliners most particularly the serenely frighteningly magnificent "The Dead"

(9) James Lee Burke--The stories disturb me but the masterful control of language and the atmosphere engage me.

(10) John Keats

(11) "The Tempest"

That's how I see the list right now. I'll need to do more thinking and try to understand what factors control these choices.

With all of them except Christie, part of the attraction and appeal is the deft handling of language. And even with Christie to some extent--her writing is rather flat, but predictable and comforting in the way of a Grandmother's stories.

Before you get the idea of some high-falutin' literateur, I should mention that I love the turns of Henry James's sentences and the constructions both of story arc and character in all of their convoluted neurotic glory. I don't claim any great understanding of true appreciation of his art.

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I really enjoyed My Antonia, too--not when I first read it in 8th grade, but later, when I was in my thirties. There were two phrases in particular spoken of Antonia by the young male narrator that I loved (of course, I can't put my finger on them now, but I'll know where to look for them when next I look at the book!).

I like Wodehouse, too, though I know you can't quite see the fascination. Even in all his repetition of plot and character, he can always make Wooster turn an abrupt phrase of crass incredulity and catch me off-guard. Even though it's the nineteenth such episode and I'm jadedly watching for it, it always manages to splash me in the face and make me laugh.

In the Bible I like Proverbs and the Gospel of John.

My Only Friend Is Darkness has gotten me through a tough place or two. So has Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I don't know that they'd be considered "literature," though.

Dear Kathy,

I'm not certain that Rex Stout or Agatha Christie need apply under those conditions either. Thanks for you list!



A personal connection here: James Lee Burke was my advisor many years ago when I was an English major at Wichita State University.

Ah! So THAT'S how you ended up in wichita, Don! Do you ever get back to Warrenton?

Every few years I visit my folks there.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 28, 2004 4:06 PM.

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