Friday, 6 May 2011

Comfort Reading

A Monday hospital admission last month made me reach for something to distract me over the weekend. Nothing on my shelves promised an instant solution, but a Saturday afternoon trawl of Penge charity shops did the trick.

I'm a great fan of Stephen King, especially since I read his autobiographical On Writing. The blurb of Gerald's Game leapt out at me- a woman is manacled to a bed in a woodland cabin five miles from the nearest neighbour. Why? How is she going to escape? Suspense, surprise and the usual admix of gruesome detail kept me riveted until Sunday night. I sent it off to my sister yesterday, because I know she likes thrillers.

I knew I needed something for the inevitable hours of waiting once I was in there. I'd aready spent two half days in prelimary visits, where four hours waiting was fitted around ten minutes or so with consultants and check-up nurses. With an arrival time fixed for 7.30 on 18th April, there was no knowing the order in which I'd go down to theatre.

Luckily, I had a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger's classic study of teenage angst, presented to me by my English teacher when I was fourteen. Troubled protagonist Holden Caulfield is expelled fron boarding school for 'flunking' everything except English and the book charts his meanderings as he delays arriving home before his parents receive the news. It's hard not to empathise with his irritation at the 'phoniness' of the people he meets and with his own sense of helplessness. And yet it's so funny it makes me laugh at every page.

I'm wondering what my grandson thought of it.

If you've read the previous blog entry you'll know I woke to hear a surgeon tell me things hadn't gone to plan and I'd have to stay in longer than expected - for at least another night.

The after-effects of the anaesthetic meant I couldn't read, but I'd brought a walkman with me. I'd found a boxed set of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads for £3 in the Cancer Research shop. Again, very poignant and yet funny studies of the human predicament, read by excellent actors including Alan Bennett himself. My favourite is Patricia Routledge as the busybody who finds a sense of purpose only when she's sent to prison.

I'm saving it as a present to my friend who lives in Hull but works abroad. You obviously don't have to be a Yorkshire person to appreciate the stories - I read recently that Alan Bennett is a 'national treasure'. For once, I could agree.

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