Monday, May 5, 2008

Books on the Bed

I've kept books on the bed for as long as I can remember, at least since grade school. To those who co-inhabit interior spaces with me, the habit is often and understandably annoying. Why can't I just keep books on shelves and a nightstand (now there's a good word, nightstand) like everyone else? I do. It's just that I like books on the bed, too. Before I go to sleep, I like to have a wee heap of books to paw through. If the heap's not there, I get a little panicky. Sometimes I'll pick up one book, read a page or so, become dis-satisfied--it might be a good book, just not right for that moment--drop it, and reach for another. This behavior is less impulsive, if not less compulsive, than that of Samuel Johnson, who, upon becoming dissatisfied with a book, immediately stopped reading it and hurled it across the room.

Of course, I quickly accumulate too many books on the bed and am induced, by myself or someone else, to thin them out. Sometimes they fall off in the night, like sailors going over the side, into the ocean, their ship tossed by the tossing and turning. Sometimes a book will end up in the bed. I don't quite know how this happens, but it does. If this were the Sixties or the Seventies, and I had a lot of money and time, and I lived in New York, I'd probably have an "analyst"--a Freudian psychiatrist--and I'd talk to him or her about the books on my bed. Nothing would come of the analysis except a larger bank-account for the analyst, who would spend summers at Martha's Vineyard, in a cottage, where he or she would keep books on the bed.

Currently, the bed-library (it changes all the time) includes the following: There Is Confusion [how apt] a novel by Jessie Redmon Fauset; On Dialogue, a light philosophical book about communication, by David Bohm--quite intriguing, actually (Bohm liked to have people sit in a circle and talk--about no particular subject, at first--as way for them to observe how they communicated, unveil their prejudices, stances, poses, and habits; Waiting For God, a book of essays and letters by Simone Weil; the Poems of Edward Thomas (a World War I era poet, killed in the war); Classic Fiction of the Harlem Renaissance, edited by William L. Andrews; The Hollow, a Hercule Poirot novel by Agatha Christie; God's Trombones, by James Weldon Johnson--a book of poems based on sermons; if more people had read this book, they wouldn't have been so shocked by what the Reverend Wright has to say; Political Ideologies: Their Origins and Impact, by Leon Baradat; The Seven Dials Mystery, by Agatha Christie; and an Oxford hardback edition of the King James Bible. Plus a notebook and a few pens. Occasionally a Russian-blue cat (the color is actually gray), who is unamused by most books but will deign to sniff one or two sometimes. What could possibly be in a book that a cat doesn't already know, with great and final certainty?

Neither Christie novel has grabbed me so far. I've read a bunch of the stuff in the HR anthology already. Baradat's book is okay. I've read God's Trombones, but I want to read it again. Same with Edward Thomas. I like to dip into Weil's book. If I go with the KJB, I'll probably look at some psalms. Who knows? Maybe I'll write in the notebook. Or go to sleep. Or see what the other person is reading. I might replace this heap of books with a new heap tomorrow. Right now, that sounds like a brilliant idea. Okay, Bohm it is--On Dialogue. We'll see how it goes. Bedside reading is one thing; bed-top reading is quite another. The latter is the mark of a true bibliophile.
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