Comfort Books

October 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

I consider myself to be a pretty well read person. Over the years, I’ve read them all, Camus, Steinbeck, Flaubert, Saki, even Shakespeare – which are actually pretty good reads, once you get past the language barrier.

But, when bad things happen in my life, I turn to my ‘comfort books’. A comfort book is one that you may well have read lots of times and is most likely not one of the great books of all time (well I believe at least one of mine is as it happens) but it’s an easy read, you know it well and it has a quality that makes you feel a bit better when you hear those words, yet again, roll off the pages.

My two comfort books are, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (a clever, funny and classic book for all time) and The Stand by Stephen King.

The Hitchhikers Guide is held for occasions like deaths in the family, whilst The Stand has been my comfort book through this horrible illness. It’s probably not the best choice of book to read when you have an illness that, for example, in my case anyway, gives you breathing problems, as the story is about a flu plague that kills off most of the humans on the planet.

Because I’m so tired a lot of the time and find it hard to concentrate, I’ve resorted to using the audio version of the book. At first I thought this was…cheating…I’m not sure why I thought that: Having it read to you, is just the same as you reading it yourself. It evokes the same emotions, makes me think about the various characters in the same way, I’ve analysed some of the underlying metaphors used by King throughout the books, etc. So I’ve gotten over my thoughts of cheating by  audio and I’m going to embrace this medium.

Why The Stand, why is this my illness comfort book? I thought about this last night as I finished the penultimate chapter (which by the way has taken me 2 months to get to!) and I realised that it wasn’t the main theme of the book, which is good vs. evil (we all love that theme, don’t we). No it was the underlying theme of ‘the journey’: I’ve been on a journey too, not a particularly nice one, but a journey none the less.

The journey in literature is a very common theme, The Wizard of Oz, Don Quixote and so on. Journeys don’t have to be literal ones about travelling a road, they can be metaphorical journeys through life too, of course. I think that I’ve latched onto The Stand because of my own metaphorical journey through illness. The journeys of the characters in the book feel comforting to me, like they’re going through the same pain and awakenings as I am. They can’t literally talk to me, but I feel sometimes as if they are and that has been a help throughout the last 2 months. Thanks Mr King.

Tell me if you have any comfort books?

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