Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reading for Comfort

To everyone who stopped by and left a comment last time--thank you! I appreciated all the sweet thoughts.

One thing I've noticed, when I've got a lot going on or I've hit a rough patch, is that my reading pattern changes.

Some people eat for comfort. Me, I read for comfort. (Not that I have anything against comfort eating. In fact, best of all is a combination, with the eating portion preferably involving bacon. Or cheese popcorn.)

I'm much less likely to start new novels, even if they're by authors I know. Instead, I go to my shelves and pick down old favorites. These are novels I've read anywhere between five times and, I don't know, maybe twenty. Some are books I first read when I was a teen. As far as genre, they're all over the map, but they have one thing in common: From the first page, I feel like I've slipped into a sweet, familiar place.

In the past couple of weeks, I've reread The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord, and I'm just finishing Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck.

After that, I think I'll be ready to dive into new waters again. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is already on my nightstand, waiting.

How about you? Any favorite comfort reads? Or, when you have a lot on your plate, do you prefer to plunge into something brand-new?


mi said...

it's been a long time since i've been able to comfort read - but the count of monte cristo is always a great book to snuggle into like a fleece blanket.

and gone with the wind. i've been re-reading that since i was twelve!

Christine Fletcher said...

Ooh, I've always wanted to read The Count of Monte Cristo. Got to pick that up sometime.

And YES, Gone w/ the Wind is one of my favorite comfort books! I think I first read it when I was twelve, too. It's actually one of my desert-island books, one I will never be without. I think I'm on my 3rd copy.

Lisa Nowak said...

One book I love to re-read is The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I'm also fond of Dogsbody by Dianna Wynne Jones. As a dog lover, you should check that one out if you haven't already.

Christine Fletcher said...

Dogsbody looks adorable! On my TBR list. Thanks, Lisa!

karen said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. thank you for bringing her to life on these pages by sharing her history, and the stories and photos of your years together.

Comfort reading is certainly called for, and returning to the familiar consolation of well-loved, re-read, battle scarred and tear stained books is the path for me too. Usually by reaching for The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wind in the Door as my first escape route into that world of solace.

I could go on. This is the kind of list that is difficult to keep short.

And then there's comfort movies...

Christine Fletcher said...

Isn't that true about the long list? I started listing my favorite comfort books, but realized it was going to take up most of the blog post.

And oh, yes, comfort movies! The Women (1939 version) and The Philadelphia Story are two of my favorites...but that's a long list, too.

Sarah said...

I definitely know what you mean about that sweet and familiar place. Reading the Harry Potter series for me takes me back to times when I was the happiest. But I feel I enjoy those old favorites most when my life isn't that hectic. During the busy times I'm much more likely to try out a new book.

mi said...

oh my guinness! how PERFECT a film is the women?

i'm always shocked when my cinefile friends say they haven't seen it.

probably the best use of dialogue ever!

sorry, i just got so excited because i adore this movie!

Christine Fletcher said...

Sarah, I had a feeling that for some folks it would be the opposite; that when things get crazy, a new novel is just the ticket.

Either way, it is lovely, isn't it, when a certain book evokes the memory and feeling of a happy time?

Christine Fletcher said...

mi, The Women was one of my mom's favorite movies, and now it's one of mine...oh yes, that dialogue! Who can forget the Norma Shearer vs. Joan Crawford showdown in the dept. store dressing room:

Norma (the noble, wronged wife): "If you're dressing to please Steven, not that one. He doesn't like such obvious effects."

Joan (the mistress): "Thanks for the tip. But anytime Steven doesn't like what I'm wearing, I just take it off.

(Can you tell I've seen it a billion times?)

Have you seen His Girl Friday? For fast, snappy, hilarious dialogue, that movie is the TOPS.

Sally Nemeth said...

I'm the EXACT same way with comfort reads. I also don't read anything new when in a certain phase of the throes of writing. And thanks for the HANDMAIDS TALE reminder. Been a while since I've pulled that off the shelf for a comfort read, which is actually something I need right now.

karen said...

Such delicious dialog in all those great movies, you just want to hear it over and over to savor the taste... His Girl Friday is definitely one of my favorites as well, because a) there's Cary Grant, and b) they talk like this:

Walter Burns: Sorta wish you hadn't done that, Hildy.
Hildy Johnson: Done what?
Walter Burns: Divorced me. Makes a fella lose all faith in himself. Gives him a... almost gives him a feeling he wasn't wanted.
Hildy Johnson: Oh, now look, junior... that's what divorces are FOR!

Walter Burns: You've got the brain of a pancake. This isn't just a story you're covering - it's a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley.
Hildy Johnson: It's the other way around.
Walter Burns: Oh, well, don't get technical at a time like this.

...and ditto the thanks for talking about the Handmaid's Tale; the beginning of that book (like all that follows) is indelibly imprinted on my brain—when she is first realizing how the world has changed. I've never looked at an ATM in quite the same way.

Christine Fletcher said...

Sally, that's an interesting point about reading when writing. Got me to think about what I do at those times. When I'm really deep in the work, I realize I also stay away from new voices. It's as if they might interfere with what's going on in my head.

I also stay away from books in the same genre I write. So my YA reading really falls off when my own writing is hot and heavy.

I was going to start on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but my sweet patootie grabbed it first. So I'm still in the comfort zone with Clan of the Cave Bear.

Christine Fletcher said...

Karen, that bit about the divorce is one of my favorite exchanges in His Girl Friday!

On Twitter the other day, people were posting books that changed their lives (I'm ambivalent about Twitter, but that's a conversation for another day), and The Handmaid's Tale is one of the books I listed. After reading it, I've never taken my independence and freedom so much for granted, because Margaret Atwood made the scenario of losing them so chillingly (is that a word?) plausible.