Better Read Than Dead


Having long banished that certain someone I may/may not have been dating of late, I was spared the foul cliché of dumping him this Valentine’s Day. Better still, the gentleman in question thinks he dumped me. But no matter . . . Now I can snuggle up in my squalid (though cat-free) maisonette and fondle the pages of these classics, blissfully alone:

1 THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford (1915) This novel about two fabulously rich and beautiful Swinburne-quoting couples who meet, seduce, torture, and ultimately destroy one another—all in the name of love—opens thus: “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” From there it gets much, much worse. Or better, depending upon your temperament.

2 JUDE THE OBSCURE by Thomas Hardy (1895) A prophylactic for the academically ambitious, the too fecund, and anyone with a train fetish. I reread this almost every February.

3 BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S by Truman Capote (1958) If you only know the happified, Technicolor film version, you’re in for a large surprise. And best of all—unlike the movie—there’s no odious Mickey Rooney in Capote’s book.

4 ELECTIVE AFFINITIES by J.W. von Goethe (1809) Perhaps not the rollicking good fun of his The Sorrows of Young Werther, but really any novel about doomed intergenerational lovers, dead babies, and neoclassical landscape architecture is, de facto, heaven. Note to readers: Avoid open boats!

5 THE COUNTERFEITERS by André Gide (1926) Hey, Disney: Right up there with Musil’s Törless for its grim psychologizing, this tale of a schoolboy crush gone terribly wrong would make a super rock opera by Jim Steinman. Perhaps with marionettes.

Bonus texts

MUSIC FOR TORCHING by A.M. Homes, COCK & BULL by Will Self, A THOUSAND WAYS TO PLEASE A HUSBAND (WITH BETTINA’S BEST RECIPES) by Louise Bennett Weaver & Helen Cowles LeCron, FRISK by Dennis Cooper, MR. X by Peter Straub