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A few years later, I'm divorced. No surprise. The couch and I have moved to a dark apartment in the West 50s. It's a summer weekend, I have nothing whatsoever to do, and I should be lonely but I'm not—I'm reading the collected works of Raymond Chandler. Six years later, another divorce: For weeks I've been unable to focus, to settle down, to read anything at all. A friend I'm staying with gives me the bound galleys of Smiley's People. I sink into bed and happily surrender to John le Carré. I love John le Carré, but I'm even more in love with his hero, George Smiley, the spy with the broken heart. I want George Smiley to get over his broken heart. I want him to get over his horrible ex-wife who betrayed him. I want George Smiley to fall in love. I want George Smiley to fall in love with me. George Smiley, come to think of it, is exactly the sort of person I ought to marry and never do. I make a mental note to write Le Carré a letter giving him the benefit of my wisdom on this score. And someday I will. I swear.

But meanwhile, my purple couch is lost in the divorce and I buy a new couch, a wonderful squishy thing covered with a warm, cozy fabric, with arms you can lie back on and cushions you can sink into. On it I read most of Anthony Trollope and all of Edith Wharton, both of whom are dead and can't be written to. Too bad: I'd like to tell them their books are as contemporary as they were when they were written. I read all of Jane Austen, six novels back-to-back, and spend days blissfully worrying over whether the lovers in each book will ever overcome the misunderstandings, objections, misapprehensions, character flaws, class distinctions, and all the other obstacles to love. I read these novels in a state of suspense so intense that you would never guess I have read them all at least 10 times before.

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