(section from Classical Women Reading by a Temple, Henry Thomas Schafer)
What would your reaction be if you came home and your husband decided had decided to throw everything out of the pantry to create a workspace for himself (please note that everything that was in the pantry was now your problem to deal with). In the workspace he is going to write a non-fiction book (something he had never done) about his first crush (who lives nearby and is recently separated from her husband). And the crush decides to HELP your husband with his book.
Is this scenario from a letter to an advice columnist?
No, it’s a modern novel. Sigh. And one of the reasons not to give Darling Auntie books for Christmas. What utter nonsense – what male gaze – what lack of vision.
This is why we love Trollope who can always be counted on to provide justice: the kind people are rewarded while the jealous husband goes crazy and dies miserably. Just as we like it. As Oscar Wilde so wisely said: “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”
For fiction, we must go backwards – is there anything more comforting than Cranford on bleak winter nights? No, and you can even cheat and watch the BBC production, also charming.
Is there a better Cinderella story than Persuasion? No.
If you had a bad holiday season you need Daphne du Maurier, Cold Comfort Farm, The Count of Monte Cristo or Wuthering Heights.
If you had a really bad holiday season, you need The Consolation of Philosophy.
Of course you can try travel books:
Or fairy tales:
Or read to a child:
Or go through all of Wilde (the plays if you don’t know them, de Profundis if you need some starch)
There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more…Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.’