Sometimes I can be sceptical about people going in for a massive amount of escapist reading. For instance, I’ve met people who read an average of five male adventure stories or fantasies or romances a week, fifty-two weeks a year. That – even with my just-prior-to-Christmas just ticking over brain – amounts to 260 a year, and when someone is doing that amount of escapist reading, that might indicate avoiding some serious problem in real life that needs urgent attention.
But perhaps that problem is insoluble – or one that will resolve itself in a few years but currently must be endured – in which case, a retreat into escapism is surely sensible.
And I have to admit, if I’d written 260 books I would find it hard to criticise anyone who spent every evening with his or her nose buried in them…
And I have to admit, too, that there is some justice in the argument that authors spend too much time immersed in our fantasy worlds.
But a bit of escapism is refreshing. It’s nice, sometimes, to be completely uncritical and self-indulgent, particularly at this time of year. In the New Year, we can leap up to tackle the world’s problems with new enthusiasm. Well, possibly we will waddle along to confront them, given that we will have gained on average three pounds.
I like settling down with a book and a mince pie and either a cup of tea or a glass of sherry, or even of mulled wine, while the wind howls outside. I no longer live in the isolated old houses in which I grew up, but I do live on a hill, anyway, where it’s often windy. I don’t have a real log fire these days – but a radiator will do as well (and having been brought up with open fires, while I miss them I know all too well how tiresome they are to light and clean up after day after day).
I was reading Mari Biella’s excellent recommendations for Christmas reading. She’s beaten me to it with ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Well, as I have often jeered at the insipid nature of Dickens’ heroes and heroines, and commented with disgust besides on his treatment of his wife, it seems only fair to show a flash of Christmas charity and recommend one of his books; besides, sentimental as it is, I do like that one.
For sheer escapist fun, I don’t think you can beat Sherlock Holmes short stories at Christmas. For instance, there is the first collection I ever read, ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’. My favourite is ‘The Speckled Band’. There’s a Christmas story in it too, ‘The Blue Carbuncle’. That one is also interesting as a reminder that in the UK, goose was traditionally the fowl eaten at Christmas – by those who could afford it, anyway.
That one is truly alarming. Then, ‘Mr Jones’ by Edith Wharton is another fine spine chiller.
For something both fun and spooky – with the borderline between the psychological and the supernatural there, but only just –last year I read the fine novella by the above quoted Mari Biella: ‘Wintergreen’.
Or, for a full length tale of terror, there is, of course, Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman in Black’.
Seasons Greetings to everyone. Now, where is that heated mince pie and that glass of sherry?