The Help Desk: Under the skin

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,

If you could flay the flesh from the bones of any author, living or dead, and then wear their flesh like a fancy suit and walk around inside them for a while, which author would you choose?

Sera, Madison Park

Dear Sera,

How fun! This is a game Mother and I usually reserve for special occasions, like Y2K or Nicholas Sparks' birthday, but of course I will humor you.

Who would I wear like a wedding dress? Definitely Pearl S. Buck for the day-to-day. When I'm menstruating, a pre-oven Sylvia Plath. Jack Kerouac on days when I need a boost of unearned confidence, and I'd reserve Roxanne Gay for days when I'm forced to attend above-ground parties.