What, reader, would the sensitive young man’s life amount to without an occasional embrace procured directly from the pages of some analeptic manuscript or the other?

Sure, we can spin Isaac Hayes’ Need to Belong to Someone till blue in the face; at which point the plastic bag is removed. Purely as a safety precaution, you understand. But when snuggled beneath the duvet with book in hand, and a voice, whomever that human angel may be, says, “Hey hey hey. I feel your plight, little buddy. Thangs gonna be aight, y’hear?” — heck, it’s enough to penetrate the most cotton-wooled of hearts.

Plotless, floating environ

Jane Packer’s The Complete Guide to Flower Arranging hardly needs stating. The Highly Sensitive Person’s Workbook, too, comes indubitably recommended. Most notably, a well-thumbed copy of How to Talk to Women by Ron Louis & David Copeland will take pride of place under the pillow of any young man worth his salty lacrimations. Classics, each and every one of them. For those born with a skin too few, though, a single text continues to stand unchallenged in the sensorial canon: A Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans.

Dandy; loner; neurasthenic; prolific masturbator. Jean des Esseintes, the novel’s protagonist and impossibly amazing guy, has it all. While ostensibly the tale of a weary Parisian aesthete — pale, cerebral and with inherited cheddar to spunk — we find ourselves very much in the plotless, floating environ so familiar to our number.

The narrative, such as it is, sees des Esseintes taking himself to the French countryside, the bright lights and clunge-filled extravaganza of a previous existence now holding scant appeal. Once ensconced, our man sets about getting his creative freak on — conducting an analysis into the history of Western literature, no less. Cicero is, he informs us, shit; Baudelaire, Mallarme and Schopenhauer far from.

Dandy; loner; neurasthenic; prolific masturbator.

With home-made perfume brewing and a garden populated solely by poisonous flowers to his name, things, justifiably, appear to be going well. Upon the discovery that even untethered contemplation has its bell curve, however, des Esseintes proceeds to do what any sensitive cat in the circumstances would: decorate a tortoise with gemstones. Said animal perishes under the weight — symbolism, friends, I know you can dig.

Spirit admirably in tact, he decides upon a trip to Blighty. Mistake. Barely off the train in London, Des Esseintes is pummeled by the boorish, condemnatory, rotting stench of Englishness. Horrified, he at once returns to the womb-like comfort of his bolt-hole — cursing Albion’s inimitable capacity for narrow-mindedness in the face of so dazzling a creature as he foxtrot oscars. We could have told him as much; saved the man a journey, like.

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–> <!–[endif]–>Dandy; loner; neurasthenic; prolific masturbator.