A reader writes:
You have indicated that you delight in the works of Patrick O’Brian. Are you also a fan of P.G. Wodehouse? E.F. Benson? Saki? R. F.
When the world is getting you down, and you want total comfort reading, who or what do you turn to?
I asked this question at a gathering of friends this weekend and half the people there said “Winnie The Pooh”. For me, it’s either Arthur Ransome (of “Swallows & Amazons” fame – a must read, must must read! “Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might have been!”) or children’s books I remember fondly.
This is a wonderful question, one nobody has ever asked me, so I’m answering it fresh, straight off the top of my head. I like Saki well enough but have never been able to connect with Benson, and I’ve never read anything by Delderfield. When I feel the need for “total comfort reading” (a nice phrase), I typically turn to
(1) O’Brian, whose Aubrey/Maturin novels I just finished rereading in their entirety
(2) Wodehouse, usually the Jeeves novels (I don’t like the short stories nearly as much)
(3) Anthony Trollope
(4) Raymond Chandler
(5) Rex Stout
(6) Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder and Parker crime novels (the latter are written under the pseudonym “Richard Stark”)
(7) William Haggard’s Colonel Russell political thrillers–virtually unknown in this country, alas, but I own them all
(8) Barbara Pym
(9) Jon Hassler
(10) Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time
In addition, I find it relaxing to revisit familiar books about music–preferably biographies. I’ve no idea why.
This is not to say, by the way, that I necessarily view these writers as somehow unserious. Stout and Westlake, yes–they’re pure entertainers, albeit of a high class–but Haggard’s cold-eyed view of the world is anything but frivolous, while the others (including Chandler and Wodehouse) can certainly stand up to close critical scrutiny.
What about you, OGIC? Which books reset your overheated brain to a nice mild simmer?