Literary equivalent of comfort food

For me, the Sherlock Holmes stories are the literary equivalent of comfort food. I began reading them as a boy when my father gave me a collection cast off from a library. (I still have that book.) In the decades since I have been through the entire canon, as well as the apochrypha, and most of the stories I’ve read several times.

Reading them again allows me to recall the simpler life of my youth and imagine the social certainties of the late Victorian world where minds like Holmes’ could be counted on to set things right. (I’ve mentioned before that I believe the British social structure of the time allowed them to pioneer and master the detective story while the more rugged and wide open society in the U.S. allowed us to develop the crime novel.) And so from time to time I take up a volume of the tales and indulge in one or two, enjoying the comfort of the familiar.

Like all comfort food, the nourishment is more in the warm nostalgia than in the nutritional vigor, but most of us need a plate of reliable comfort food now and then.

And now that the stories are in the public domain, I can find them and read them online, sometimes when I really ought to be doing something else.

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