Jean Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy
Character in the “Little Paris Bookshop”
Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts. Effective in large doses for treating pathological optimism or a sense of humor failure. Ideal for saunagoers with exhibitionist tendencies. Side effects: An aversion to owning things, and a potentially chronic tendency to wear a robe all day.
Barbery, Muriel. The Elegance of the Hedgehog. An effective cure in large doses for if-such-and-such-happens-ism. Recommended for unacknowledged geniuses, lovers of intellectual films, and people who hate bus drivers.
Cervantes, Miguel de. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. To be taken when your ideals clash with reality. Side effects: Anxiety about modern technology and about the destructive effects of machines, which we fight as though they were windmills.
Forster, E. M. “The Machine Stops,” a short story first published in The Oxford and Cambridge Review, 1909. Handle with care! Highly effective antidote to Internet technocracy and blind faith in iPhones. Also cures an addiction to Facebook and dependency on The Matrix. Directions for use: Small doses only for members of the Pirate Party and Web activists!
Gary, Romain. Promise at Dawn, trans. John Markham Beach. For a better understanding of motherly love and protection against nostalgia for one’s childhood. Side effects: Daydreaming; lovesickness.
Hesse, Hermann. “Stages,” a poem in The Glass Bead Game, trans. Richard and Clara Winston. Cures grief, and inspires you to trust.
Kafka, Franz. “Investigations of a Dog,” a short story in The Great Wall of China, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir. A remedy for the odd sensation of being generally misunderstood.Side effects: Pessimism; a longing to stroke a cat.
Kästner, Erich. Doktor Erich Kästners Lyrische Hausapotheke (Dr. Erich Kästner’s Lyrical Medicine Chest—unpublished in English). According to the poetic Dr. Kästner, it treats a variety of ailments and disturbances, including know-it-alls, an urge to break up with someone, everyday irritations and the autumn blues.
Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking, trans. Tony Ross. Effective against acquired (rather than innate) pessimism, and a fear of miracles. Side effects: Diminished numeracy skills; singing in the shower.
Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. The first in a series of five novels. Helps one to kick a TV habit and to cope with lovesickness, the hassles of daily life and tedious dreams. Side effects: Insomnia; unsettling dreams.
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. For vegetarians. Side effects: A fear of water.
Millet, Catherine. The Sexual Life of Catherine M., trans. Adriana Hunter. Helps you answer the great question of whether you jumped into a relationship too quickly. NB: Things could always be worse.
Musil, Robert. The Man Without Qualities, trans. Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike. A book for men who’ve forgotten what they wanted from life. A remedy for aimlessness. Side effects: The effects are gradual: after two years, your life will have changed forever. The main risks are that you will alienate all your friends, develop a predisposition to social satire, and suffer from recurring dreams.
Nin, Anaïs. Delta of Venus. Will cure listlessness and restore sensuality within days of your starting treatment.
Orwell, George. 1984. Reduces gullibility and apathy. Old home remedy for chronic optimism, but past its sell-by date.
Pratchett, Terry. The Discworld novels. Terry Pratchett has so far published forty novels, The Color of Magic being the first, and Raising Steam the most recent. For the world-weary and the dangerously naïve. Mind-warping stuff, even for novices.
Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials trilogy. For those who occasionally hear imaginary voices, and believe they have an animal soul mate.
Ringelnatz, Joachim. Kindergebetchen (Little Bedtime Prayers—unpublished in English). For agnostics who for once are moved to prayer. Side effects: Flashbacks to evenings when you were small.
Saramago, José. Blindness, trans. Giovanni Pontiero. Helps you to tackle overwork, to prioritize and to see your purpose in life.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Recommended for those susceptible to boring dreams and those who sit, paralyzed, by the phone (“Will he ever ring?”).
Surre-Garcia, Alem, and Françoise Meyruels. The Ritual of the Ashes. An Occitan invocation from the dead to the living. The original was published as Lo libre dels rituals, 2002. Helps in cases of recurring grief for a loved one, and as a secular graveside incantation to be said by people who do not believe in prayer.
Toes, Jac. De vrije man (The Free Man—unpublished in English). For tango dancers between milongas, and for men who are too scared to love. Side effects: Makes you look again at your relationship.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. To overcome adult worries and rediscover the child within.
von Arnim, Elizabeth. The Enchanted April. For indecision and for trusting one’s friends. Side effects: Falling in love with Italy; a yearning for the South; a heightened sense of justice.