Comfort reading

Whenever I think of comfort food, the image of Nigella Lawson springs to mind. A friend once gave me one of her beautifully illustrated cookbooks and, interspersed with smiling, airbrushed photos of the domestic goddess herself, she devotes a whole chapter to comfort food. One favourite that I share with her is mashed potato (which needless to say has healthy dollops of butter). I also like to mix in sweet potato and butternut.

But back to the reading. My mood has been a bit up and down the last few days and one look at the pile of books next to my bed confirmed that things are a bit out of whack. In no particular order we have: Depression Matters, Trauma and Recovery, Jung’s autobiography, Stress Matters and then the lovely but rather wide-ranging and disparate “1000 Books to Change Your Life”. And that’s just the first four books. Lower down the pile we also have Jonny Steinberg on AIDS. Now I’m a great fan of Jonny’s writing and I did enjoy the first 50-odd pages of Jung’s autobiography but these titles were just not cutting it in helping to lift me from my glum state. So I did what any self-respecting book blogger would do and that is to go and buy a book.

Of course I could have borrowed a book in keeping with SA Library Week or have re-read a book that was already within easy range but there’s something comforting about actually buying a new book. Ok, this is sounding rather lame so I’ll just tell you that the book in question is Paul Auster’s The Brooklyn Follies. There’s continuity here since I’ve been curious to read him since I enjoyed (his wife) Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American. And I also have a friend in Brooklyn so it seemed a good a choice as any.

So far so good. Easy narrative style. Engaging, literary, a basic plot with enjoyable diversions and stories within stories. Likeable characters with problems I can relate to. Just the thing. And enough references to New York to keep me happy.

As for the leave, things are picking up. Some retail therapy including a deluxe camping chair (trying it out before buying one for P too), some encouraging signs on the cricketing front and the end of the domestic Cold War. Just on that score, I discovered yesterday evening that my mother had had three fainting spells the night before which a) she hadn’t told me about (basically since we weren’t talking); and b) her doctor thought might be the precursors to a heart attack. We are talking about a 69-year old woman with a pacemaker here so this is no light matter. My sister managed to restore the patient’s spirits considerably with a flying visit. And she is also attending the appointment with the heart specialist tomorrow. The patient is looking a lot better, and I think scoring a victory over her son in the Cold War might have helped a little to boost her morale. (It might sound flippant but never underestimate the power of mothers.)

On the reading front, I also enjoyed an excellent article from the Psychoanalytic Review on a child case that read like a short story. Pilar Jennings writes extraordinarily well, and she’s made me curious to read Nina Coltart’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” as well as some Wilfren Bion. I also loved what she said about good therapists staying in the present moment and working from a position of curious, not-knowing which allows them to try and meet the patient in the (psychic) place where they need to be met. I’m not expressing it well but trust me, it’s pretty profound.

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12 Responses to Comfort reading

  1. I read one of Paul Auster’s books and liked it. I haven’t read Sorrows of an American, but I’ll put it on the list. Comfort reading for me, though, would be a Terry Pratchett book.

  2. doctordi says:

    The Brooklyn Follies was my first Auster read, and I enjoyed it for precisely the reasons you list. Very different to his New York trilogy, too, and I must say I am feeling like I must read some Hustvedt – her name just keeps cropping up everywhere I look. What a household!

  3. Dolce says:

    I loved both the Brooklyn Follies and Hustvedt’s “what I loved”…didn’t know they were married tho’. How nice!

    and I hope your mum’s ok. Send her my regards and best wishes!

  4. Litlove says:

    I think Bion’s case studies are supposed to be very good, but I haven’t ever found out in which book he’s hidden them yet! Glad to hear the Cold War is over and I can imagine it might have had its uses. Very sorry, though, to hear that your mother’s health is dodgy and I’m glad you have a sister there to help out. You remind me I MUST read Auster. I’ve been meaning to for years! Hang on in there, Pete. It sounds like you are pulling it all around. 🙂

  5. Natalian says:

    “Comfort reading” for me means easy and predictable reading. I want to read but it must not evoke too much emotion and require any deep thought analysis. It’s good to give the brain a holiday too every now and then! Glad to hear the ‘Cold War’ has come to an end – those sort of situations are always such a drain on ones energy! Hope all goes well with your Mom’s appointment.

  6. Bee says:

    Much good stuff to comment on here, but I can’t get past the comfort food. I love Nigella’s writing: sometimes that brings comfort enough, never mind the food!

    I’ve had the Cold War thing with my mom, too. Maybe you could make her something nice to eat?

  7. Emily Barton says:

    Funny (surprise, surprise), I’ve been writing (in my head. It has yet to make it on paper) my own post on comfort reads, as I just went around the house selecting some the other day. Maybe when I’m done with those, I’ll have to read Auster. Meanwhile, hope your mother is all right and sorry to hear you lost the Cold War (I’d say she used unfair tactics), but at least it’s over.

  8. Pete says:

    Lilian – I see what you mean about the Pratchett. Pure delight, silly at times but always entertaining. I’m looking for a slightly different kind of comfort at the moment, but you’ve reminded me how much I enjoyed Pratchett last time I read him.

    DoctorDi – Yes, would love to be a dinner guest in their house. Haven’t read NYT but it’s on the list.

    Dolce – Will pass on the good wishes, thanks! Mom’s got to got for an angiogram this week since they really don’t know. Could be fine, could be a heart attack waiting to happen.

    Litlove – Thanks, and I’m going to review this Auster so that I can do it justice. Something to keep me blogging at any rate. As for the Cold War, that would probably make an interesting case study in itself!

    Natalian – Thanks. And it’s interesting to see how my tastes have changed over the past few years. A lit bit of emotional intensity can actually be comforting, as opposed to a really “light” movie (we re-watched “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” last night and I was cringing almost all the time).

    Bee – Great idea. We’re cooking her a nice roast chicken for lunch, and I think she’s appreciating the concern for her health too.

    Emily – I’d love to hear your take on comfort reads. And as for the Cold War, well we’ve moved on since then. She does have a heart problem so I think anything has to be filtered through that realisation before I take exception to her controlling (and critical) ways!

  9. boxofbooks says:

    We are huge fans of mashed potatos – I ate two a day during my second pregnancy – and I have to tell you, try them with a couple parsnips chopped up and cooked with the potatos, and cheddar cheese on top. Glorious, glorious food.

    I hope things get better with your mother.

  10. verbivore says:

    Am looking forward to your thoughts on Auster – I’m in two minds about him, but enjoy his writing per se. Yes, it’s a bit complicated. Glad you are enjoying (despite the Cold War, ended or no, that can be very stressful) your holiday and hope you’re feeling more relaxed!

  11. doctordi says:

    Pete, how did your mum go at the specialist??? I hope everything is all right. And mothers thrive on wars hot and cold – don’t let anyone tell you it’s just men who make it.

  12. Pete says:

    boxofbooks – Thanks for the cooking tip. Will try it out. Yum 😉

    Verbivore – I’m so glad you said that re Auster. I’m also in two minds about him. I’ve just finished The Brooklyn Follies and I really enjoyed it, but there’s something nagging me about him too. Will try and put my finger on it.

    Di – Oh, big drama here. Angiogram showed clogged arteries so they moved straight on to the stent, and now we’re waiting to see how that turns out. Should be straightforward and a big improvement, but there are sometimes complications. A bit worrying since both her cardiologist and GP are out of the country right now.

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