Reading for Sanity ~ BitterSweetLife

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Reading for Sanity

Reaching the Dalgliesh Point

It happens every semester. I enter a phase of endgame desperation and begin to read—frivolously and irresponsibly. (In the past, I’ve labeled this extremity the “Dalgliesh Point,” tipping my hat to the P.D. James mysteries that typically keep me sane.) Theoretically, this rabid course of action should sound the death knell for my final exams. But things are not always as they seem. In reality, it gives me the mental wherewithal to cram my finals down.

I’m not sure what possessed me, but in the last several days I traversed rapidly through The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. What can I say about Burroughs? He won’t make the Master Book List, but he does have a knack for the fantastic. I guess his work could be classified as Victorian pulp fiction. I place Burroughs in the same psychological realm as Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll, all of whom must have spent their waking hours in prolonged daydreams.

In Burrough’s case (as anyone who’s read Tarzan can say), the daydreams are filled with exotic environs and “savage” women. This could rightly be called unabashed escapism, so I guess it’s appropriate that I’m reading it during my finals week. However, with literature of this sort, “a spoonful weighs a ton”—which is to say I’m probably set for at least ten years.

This morning I took the meds to soothe my aching back, drank the coffee to stir my tired mind, sipped the water to fill my dehydrated veins, and headed off to slam up my Theology 2 exam. What happened next was an information dump. I unloaded everything in my mind, emptying even the hallway closets. My pieces of notepaper got so weighed down with theology that they curled up like hard tacos as I wrote. The information is laid on so thick my professor will have to grade it with a spatula.

Now that I’m back home, and before cramming begins for my History of Christianity exam, I’ve opened P.D. James’s A Certain Justice starring Adam Dalgliesh. In the initial excitement, 1.5 chapters have been devoured, and—as countless previous experiences have taught me—the darkly intricate world of P.D. James is the perfect antidote to Finals.

As I type, Burrough’s dinosaurs and jungle princesses are receding and present-day London is taking on focus. I already feel better. Now, in truth, the Dalgliesh Point has been reached.

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littlepeace said...

I know the feeling. I read The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy last week. Is P.D. James worth reading? I have been in search of new mysteries, lately. I found him in the library, yesterday, but his titles sounded a bit sensational, so I decided it might not be best to jump in without further information.

Ariel said...

As you can guess, I'm a big James fan. She (yes, Arthur Conan Doyle has been displaced by a woman) is probably not for everyone, though. James doesn't downplay the ugliness of human evil, and the crimes and psychology she depicts tend to be graphic. I do think there are legitimate reasons for this.

For more, I'd direct you to an earlier post, In Defense of P.D. James. Thanks for asking. Hopefully James will gain another reader.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife