Friday, August 18, 2006

Comfort food

Last night, I was reading Ron Suskind's The One Percent Solution while cooking, and I reached my limit. I couldn't read any more about the Bush administration right now without losing my mind.

So, laying the Suskind down, I went for my literary version of comfort food, Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. Back in January, I read the first volume for the fourth time, though I didn't write about it. I opened the second volume, which begins with the novel At Lady Molly's (1957) and immersed myself once more in Powell's world. I only read a few pages before moving on to something else, but those pages, like a bowl of warm oatmeal or a saucepan of mac and cheese, were just what I needed. A line like this can make me smile every time:
This taste for being in the fashion and giving his opinion on every subject was held against him by some people, notably Uncle Giles, no friend of up-to-date thought, and on principle suspicious of worldly success, however mild.

It's true that one of literature's jobs is to discomfit, to make us question, to force us to look at the familiar with a sharper eye. But another of its jobs is to comfort, to help us escape, and last night that's what At Lady Molly's, nearly fifty years after Powell wrote it, did for me.

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