The man I’m dating is smart, charming, charismatic, handsome … and almost twice my age. Everyone around me keeps saying that our relationship is destined to fail. Do you have suggestions for reading that will give me hope for a happy ending?
Oh, dear. As a wise relative once said to me, “It’s easy to love in a vacuum—it’s other people who are the difficulty.” While it’s true that literature does have its share of unhappy May-December relationships (Laughter in the Dark, anyone? A Gentle Creature? Keep these titles far from smug naysayers!), there’s no shortage of success stories, either. Off the top of my head: Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Little Women, Gigi, Little Dorrit, Daddy Long-Legs … and I’m sure readers can name others. I’d even add Rebecca to that list—the DeWinters may have their issues, but I wouldn’t say the age gap is one of them. I can’t pretend any of these is guaranteed to make your friends keep their views to themselves, but I hope they provide a little comfort.
I need help putting together my first-ever apartment. Can you share the decorative tastes of any writers you know? Or literary passages about especially inspiring interior spaces?
My decorating training began and ended with a childhood love of a 1928 book called The Young Decrorators, in which a bunch of kids learn the basics of interior decoration.
That said, I do have a few ideas. If you’re looking for literary inspiration, I feel bound to invoke Joris-Karl Huysman’s paean to hedonism, A Rebours (variously translated as Against the Grain and Against Nature):
He had long been a connoisseur in the sincerities and evasions of color-tones. In the days when he had entertained women at his home, he had created a boudoir where, amid daintily carved furniture of pale, Japanese camphor-wood, under a sort of pavillion of Indian rose-tinted satin, the flesh would color delicately in the borrowed lights of the silken hangings.
This room, each of whose sides was lined with mirrors that echoed each other all along the walls, reflecting, as far as the eye could reach, whole series of rose boudoirs, had been celebrated among the women who loved to immerse their nudity in this bath of warm carnation, made fragrant with the odor of mint emanating from the exotic wood of the furniture.
So there’s that. On the other end of the spectrum, I am also a major fan of Dorothy Draper’s Decorating is Fun which, while not technically “literature,” is colorful enough to double as entertaining reading. And Serious Pleasures, the biography of bright young aesthete Stephen Tennant, contains jaw-dropping descriptions of his home, Wilsford Manor (inspired by Huysmans). As to authorial décor, you might get a kick out of this slideshow of writers’ homes.
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