Dear Jane


Not long after we got hit by Hurricane Irene, a friend of my son’s sent me an article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy about the healing balm to be found in classic literature.

When we are under stress, the article stated, we find comfort in the familiar. And for readers, that comfort is most often found in classic literature.

When Marie sent me the article, I was re-reading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, one of my all-time favorites. But as much as I enjoy Edith, it’s Jane Austen who rules my heart when it comes to comfort books.

For years, my collection of Janes was a rather dilapidated mess of old paperbacks, a couple of which had failed bindings. I once sighed over this, and told my husband that “someday, I am going to buy myself a full set of Jane in hardcover so I can read and re-read them to my heart’s content.” That year, for my birthday, he presented me with this wonderful set of Jane Austen done by the Oxford University Press from the earliest print editions of her work. They are a treasure of historical and literary pleasure.

The comfort of familiar books is powerful. It’s the reason why young children want to “read” the same book over and over because what Bartholomew does with the Oobleck on page 10 is exactly what he did on page 10 the last time the book was opened. Books are rational in that way, behaving as expected again and again.

And for me, when my whole life has been turned upside down by a hurricane or illness, there’s nothing better than Jane.

Today, I’m restarting my quest for Irene recovery funds to stabilize the bank on which our house sits. Please pass the Pride and Prejudice.

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