The Help Desk: Reading as snakebite cure

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

What’s your go-to work of fiction for reliable snakebite cures? Hoping for a speedy reply.

Rebecca, Black Canyon

Hi Rebecca!

Sorry that my response came out slower than a tick turd – I've had a busy summer sweating and drinking a firehose of Irish wine (white wine with a shot of whiskey in it, potato chip garnish).

If you want to read your snakebite a book, I recommend Their Eyes Were Watching God, which features rabies, snakebite's natural rival. But if you're looking for a cure, try the Foxfire series – if it doesn't have a reliable cure for snakebite at the very least it'll give you step by step instructions on how to marry the snake what bit you. Then you can check the box marked "honest woman" on Trump's 2020 Whites Only Census.



Dear Cienna,

A while back, someone sent you a question about gender-swapping classic literary characters. As her example, she said she wondered what would happen if you gender-swapped Columbo.

I don’t blame you for not knowing this, but there was a TV show in the late 70s called Mrs. Columbo starring Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek Voyager and Orange is the New Black fame. It didn’t do very well. (Here’s the opening credit sequence.)

Just thought your readers might want to know!

RC, Westwood Village

Dear RC,

Thank you for the note – it was especially timely given the armpit of a summer we're having. My favorite episode so far is "Feelings Can Be Murder," followed closely by "Ladies of the Afternoon," in which Kate Columbo discovers that extortionists are forcing housewives to become prostitutes. BYOIrishwine.