Bibliotherapy – Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

A book can always do something for a psyche – calm it down, cheer it up, instill some missing romance, provide an adventure, travel to an unknown destination – most of the time.  The secret to getting lost in a book may be the story, the writing, or the topic, but more likely it’s the reader’s inclination and willingness to give up the present and fall into another world – for better or worse.

When the real world becomes unbearable, and reading a book becomes preferable to doing anything else, no one worries; it’s acceptable to go off in a quiet corner to read and block out the surrounding world.

 Nina Sankowitch looked to books to help her cope with  the death of her sister.  Jan Hoffman of the New York Times describes Sankovitch’s plan to read a book a day as grief therapy, chronicled in Sankovitch’s book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. 

“I was looking to books for more than just escape and pleasure.”

She read Toni Morrison, Leo Tolstoy, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and more.  Some books she found:

Stacks of books beckon – sometimes reading can just make you feel better.

Mixed Bag

Catching up on the New Yorkers piling up – the cartoons have precedence – need to read them all before recycling the mags.   A few articles caught my eye…

Anthony Lane reviews two new biographies of the other princess – Grace Kelly – the big question being did she or didn’t she have “loud intimate merriment” – is that sex? –  with her costars.    Worth reading if only for the insider information on the movies.   After reading the review, you will probably decide you have all you need to know.

Adam Gopnik re-examines the Van Gogh/Gauguin controversy on who really cut off VanGogh’s ear. Did you know Gauguin was an expert fencer?   That Van Gogh did his best work in the insane asylum where he landed after (supposedly) cutting off his own ear?

Did Gauguin do him a favor by not taking the rap and escaping to Tahiti? Could be the makings of a good novel.   You can read the abstract at

And on a more serious note, if you can take it – or need it – Meghan O’Rourke offers alternatives to the widely accepted five-stage-theory of grief in her article, “Good Grief.”