Money, money, money. All I think about these days is money. And nights too; I quite frequently wake up in a cold sweat as I worry about how I am going to pay my bills. How I will pay for anything in fact - holidays, kids shoes, my shoes, the future; horrifying. What can I read at 3 in the morning to take my mind off it, or even just to help a little bit?
Strapped for Cash
Dear Strapped for Cash,
The perfect reading material for money fretting in the wee hours is 'Hunger' by Knut Hamson, published in its final form 1890. This Norwegian masterpiece follows the marrow-achingly hungry unnamed hero around Oslo. The young man, who has no income, is desperate to keep up appearances, and an illusion of being a gentleman. Reading this book is strangely comforting. It is full of humour, and will have you laughing out loud with the hero, who does have a highly refined and enjoyably absurd take on the world. The narrative is entirely drawn from his complex inner monologue. This man is more desperate than most, but he often finds his situation hilarious. You will be reassured, I hope, that your circumstances are not as extreme as his, but by empathising with his extremity, you will take solace in the freedom that he finds both in his hunger, and in his new direction at the end of the book.
Another great book to have to hand for those dark hours before dawn is the selected stories of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). She was no stranger to poverty, since her father left her and her mother to fend for themselves when she was only five years old. To protect her from suffering, her mother forbade her to read fiction, or to make strong friendships. Fortunately, her father’s love of literature broke through the walls of caution erected by her mother, and Gilman grew up to be a woman of independent thought, a feminist taking quite radical views for her time. She was uncompromising and unconventional in love, leaving her own daughter for a time with her first husband while she found romantic fulfilment for herself. Her stories are full of strong, uncompromising women, who must trust in their own resources to survive. They are frequently impoverished, but often they find a way of turning circumstances to their advantage, by creating a small cottage industry, or turning melancholy into profit, as in “The Case of Dr Clair”. All her stories are full of gentle wisdom, humour, and wit. Her most famous tale, the Yellow Wallpaper, can be saved for another occasion, as it addresses post-natal depression – it is her short tales that will help you to feel there are small ways that you can save money, or even make money from small beginnings.
On a lighter note, if you need something relaxing and funny to read, or even to listen to, the Lawrence Block series of books about Burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr will have you chortling with glee as you follow his fates through the underworld of New York. Block’s series starts with “Burglars Can’t be Choosers”, when Bernie is tempted into doing a job. Bernie is a likable, gentlemanly chap who just happens to be a burglar for a living, and in the subsequent stories he continues to end up being the sleuth and burglar simultaneously. These books will keep you entertained, the hours will fly. Bernie is a master at living in the moment, and he certainly doesn’t have a pension.