On Finding Balance

Chestnut is a particular kind of reader. But she's not narrow-minded about it. She likes a story about a good girl, preferably set some time in the past. The girls are earnest and true and smart and resourceful. The bad guys are bad. 

She'll venture beyond this, though. For instance, she's been reading Beauty Queens, proving that her love for an old-fashioned story can coexist with her appreciation for a feminist post-modern satire. 

But the satire can be a little…much, for a person like Chestnut. So what's a girl to do? Judicious balancing. Here's what I found on the couch.


See, apparently what you do is just have to have both of them right near you, and when Beauty Queens gets too intense, well then you just dip into your old friend Meg: The Secret of the Witch's Stairway, and you're good to go. I think it helps that this is far from the first time reading Meg.

And I don't know about you, but even looking at Meg has a powerful pull for me. Here's what it looks like inside:


Though the cat is a little menacing for my taste.

Also this:


You know exactly what the pages smell like, don't you? That old library paper.

There's no denying the screaming pleasure Diana got out of the wicked gleeful satire of Beauty Queens. But the pleasures of a big chair and an old hardcover version of Meg: The Secret of the Witch's Stairway? Sublime.

This is why, I suppose, there are all different kinds of books in the world. And some people just have a sense of how they might balance each other out.

Does anyone else do this?

10 thoughts on “On Finding Balance

  1. My daughter does the same thing. When she is reading something a little scary, I find her in her bed reading Calvin and Hobbes books before bed. I asked her about it once, I wondered if she had finished her book and she told me, “No, but it is scary so I need Calvin to put the funny back in there.” Smart girl. Her rested mother is thankful.


  2. Megsie, that was such an awesomely self-aware comment for your daughter to make!
    I do this too–even more often for an intellectual break. I go really slowly with non-fiction and find it hard to absorb, so I often intersperse challenging books with really light ones. Like I’ve been finally reading Moby Dick (which is actually pretty funny, I must say; also Melville thoughtfully broke it up into very short chapters) and am now switching back and forth with that and Bill Bryson.


  3. Us too! We call them “comfort books”, although I like the sound of “palate cleansers” too. Last night we were on a particularly intense chapter of The Two Towers (yes yes I know how you feel about Tolkien), and the kids decided they would rather I read some beloved picture books about farm animals before bed. Our kids (meaning all of yours also) are so darned smart.


  4. @Laurel: I have somehow felt intimidated by Moby Dick and have never read it. But I am now listening to the wonderful Moby Dick Big Read (one chapter released a day) and I am finding it exactly as you describe–at least so far: Big-goofy-grin funny. The varied chapter lengths always keep me guessing: one day the downloaded chapter will barely get me from the door of my apartment to the street, while the next it will keep me company for a couple of (walked) miles’ worth of errands.
    Here’s the link: http://www.mobydickbigread.com/about/


  5. Thanks for the link, kk! Man, a good audio book (especially a free one!) is gold.
    I have read there are some chapters of Moby-Dick one may want to skip… especially the gruesome ones about whaling. I’ll see when I get there, but so far both the humor and the modernity of the book continue to surprise me.


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