To start with, here are some thoughts on The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies, by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, which seems to be an apt sort of volume with which to take up my pen again.
|Reading is good for you!|
In any case, that would be difficult since we have no tower. But the Man of the House spent the summer building me a little shed, where I mess around with my arty-crafty bits and pieces, instead of strewing them around the house. So I have shut myself in, with my laptop (to write on – or should that be write with?); a wireless (I like to listen to Radio 4); a pot of tea (to lubricate the brain cells); some cake and biscuits (I deserve a treat), and a woolly blanket (to keep me warm). I could just sit and read, or do some crochet, but I have promised myself I will write something, so here goes.
I just love this book and the way it provides ‘bibliotherapy’, prescribing fiction for ‘life’s ailments’, working on the premise that reading the right book will alleviate your symptoms, whether they be physical or emotional. The extensive list of contents covers all kinds of conditions, with suggested reads for each, and links to similar maladies, which recommend yet more books, and there are brief descriptions and analyses of the various volumes. In addition there are lots of lists of the ‘Ten Best’ kind, and projects to be undertaken, like creating a reading nook, or a favourites shelf.Personally, I don’t think The Novel Cure should be read straight through, from A to Z via B,C,D etc. It’s a book meant for dipping in and out of. You could make lightning raids, looking up one thing one day, and something entirely different another. Or – and this is my favoured method – you can enjoy a long, meandering rootle through the pages, where one thing leads to another, and that other leads to something else, and so on, and on, and on.
It’s like being lost, unable to find the right road to your destination, but equally unable to turn around and retrace your steps. But it makes for a wonderful journey, and you discover some amazing things along the way (following the book’s principles, perhaps Cavafy’s ‘Ithaca’ would be a good choice for ‘travellers, lost’). It turns out that the closest match for that ailment is carsickness, and the authors very sensibly suggest rail journeys instead, and even provide the names of Ten Best Novels to Read on a Train! It’s sound advice I think, since trains are the only form of transport which don’t make me ill, and I always curl up with a good book.
For example, I looked up ‘adolescence’, reacquainted myself
with Holden Caulfield, then followed the thread for ‘bed, inability to get out
of’ which turned up ‘Bed’, by David Whitehouse. Somewhere along the line I ended up with PMT, where I
wallowed in the comfort of ‘Ten Best Novels for Duvet Days’, which I think is a
lovely notion. Perhaps we should all have regular duvet days, when we curl up
in bed and do nothing but read! From there it was a short hop and a jump to ‘headache’
and a lovely little haiku, ‘Snow’, by Maxence Fermine, who I’d not come across
before, so I looked him up, and assume the poem comes from the novel of the
same name. At any rate, as I read I could almost feel the temperature drop, and
I swear a cooling wind chilled my forehead. See what I mean about one thing
leading to another…
Skip on a little from 'headache' and you find 'holiday (not knowing what novels to take on)’ which
is a problem many of us will recognise. The solution, according to Berthoud and Elderkin, is careful planning – and the Ten Best Books to Read in a
Hammock. Actually, I must confess that worries me - not the books, you understand, but
the hammock. A hammock always looks so romantic, but how comfortable would it be in
reality? And how does one clamber in and out?
I have horrible memories of being unable to arise from a deckchair in Hyde
Park, much to my Younger Daughter’s chagrin. Thankfully, there’s no Novel Cure for ‘embarrassment, caused
by parents’, but I wouldn’t want a repeat performance. Most worrying of all
from my point of view, would the hammock swing and sway, and if it did would I be seasick…
And if I was, what would the cure be…
| A Duvet Day... Woman Reading in Bed, |
by FB Serger (1889-1965).
|Romance in a hammock... A Love Story, painted by Emanuel Phillips Fox in 1903.|
|Reading on a train... Edward Hopper's iconic painting, |
Compartment C, Car 293.
There’s a good mix of books, from ancient classical works like ‘The Odyssey’ (good for ‘itchy feet’, should you wonder) to 19th Century classics and 21st Century authors, with plenty of foreign writers and a few children’s stories. You’ll probably find some old favourites here, but you won’t have read all the books suggested, and even if you have, you won’t like them all – and you may disagree with some choices, or think of novels that ought to have been included. But that’s half the fun with a book like this, and there’s nothing to stop you making your own lists and ‘remedies’.
On the downside, I would have liked an index listing all the novel titles, so I could look up novels I've read and see what they're good for! And, should you feel the urge to buy this on Kindle (like I did), don't. Resist. Stand firm. Hold out for a real book, with proper pages, which can be turned by hand as you dodge around from item to item - it will be quicker and easier to find things, and you'll be able to make your way back to the start with no trouble. The Kindle version is a nightmare to negotiate, and is driving me so doolally I'm considering splashing out on a traditional print edition.