The Best Cures For Sickness
A few years ago I was very ill indeed and spent a lot of time in hospitals, so I always kept a book with me for those ‘surprise’ waiting times when you think you’re about to be seen by a doctor but are sent to sit in another corridor instead.
I do remember what I read when I was ill, though, and I wonder if one concentrates harder because of it. For example, I remember reading William Boyd’s ‘Brazzaville Beach’ in hospital and it had an almost hallucinatory effect on me. Yesterday I read John Lanchester’s ‘The Wall’, which combines global warming and Brexit in a simple, organic way; waters have risen, walls are built, nobody gets in or out of the UK. It’s a fable that could be read by kids, really, but powerfully written.
So, one book down – half a dozen in, including John Lahr’s life of Tennessee Williams, the stories of Raymond Carver, ‘We Learn Nothing’, essays by Tim Kreider, the Field Guide to English Clergy and Besant’s History of Early & Medieval London. Some are for research, some for pleasure. None are strictly what I would call comfort reading. For that I would go to Dickens, always, and P G Wodehouse, Christie and Marsh, Allingham, Bainbridge, Waterhouse, Sillitoe, Tinniswood, Clarke, Bradbury, too many to choose from.
For sickie comfort viewing I’ll retreat to odd monochrome British movies. I just watched ‘The Party’s Over’ with a pre-facially scarred Oliver Reed – honestly, those pesky beatniks! – and creep, evocative ‘Seance on a Wet Afternoon’, both with John Barry soundtracks (how could anyone have looked at Oliver Reed and not thought he was going to be trouble?). Comedies would include all those films that manage to squeeze in every British character actor plus Richard Wattis as the man from the ministry.
As for modern comfort films, well, these are not comfortable times but I think ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’, ‘Hipsters’ and ‘The Shape of Water’ may go into a future rainy day selection box, with ‘Rogue One’ replacing ‘The Dam Busters’, which is after all essentially the same film – any further suggestions?