Jane Austen and Jane Kenyon call to me from my shelves. I muse on an ordered life where people behave properly, but where the fabric of nature reflects dark secrets inside, lifts my sorrows, reasons with my angry confusion, smiles at me. Romance draws me into an abstract world where A.S. Byatt’s poets dream of a different life, responsibilities gone, where love can’t float but sinks under a stream of loss and betrayal, nestles beneath waterfalls or in dusty attics. I read William Saroyan who weaves a simple world where people guard one another’s hearts. Eat lamb stew and apricots. I find myself in O. Henry’s spartan room. Irony and clouds of sentiment are packed here in surprise gift boxes. What is my favorite book? Is it the worn white Bible I’ve had since childhood, the one with pictures of Jesus holding different races of children on his lap? Sheep gather on the grassy hillside behind him. Or Ralph Ellison’s invisible man, fleeced and wounded in Harlem? Flannery O’Connor shears my thoughts on hot Southern afternoons. Her stories monster my reveries with characters selling costly male domination and holy flattery. Margaret Atwood lacerates the motherly bliss of childbirth, infuses suspicion everywhere. I feel naked and shorn by Sartre and Camus, telling me there’s no escape, incarcerating me behind rusty bars where the world is the same, in or out. The proud, wordy rebellion of Simone de Beauvoir cracks open the egg of my mental languor with images of abject broken bodies, odors of blood cycles. No allowance for complacency, submission, contentment, faith, following, I rediscover Conan Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes of print, not the gangly representations in film, but the genius drug addled mind that rakes in details his author has purposely hidden from his herd of readers. Are these authors all pulling the wool over my eyes?