Books on your nightstand
When I was an undergraduate writing an honors thesis on the works by Milan Kundera, I had stacks of books in my quaint private dorm room. The room was so quaint that it was actually used in the 1983 film “Class” starring Andrew McCarthy and Jacqueline Bisset.
I forgot to mention it to him when we had a friendly conversation at Cipriani in New York a few years ago. We are of a similar generation and fell into an easy conversation even though he was there with what seemed to be his partner and I was with mine. I had recently read something he had written on travel. It was brave and honest.
Recently writer Lily King shared with the New York Times that her bedside table is filled with books and that other surfaces in the room are also stacked with them.
This has been a constant for me since my college days. Stacks start to form on surfaces and because I travel frequently, parts of stacks get lugged across oceans and continents and return to stacks, sometimes the same and other times not.
If I am really enjoying a book I take as long as possible to read it. I parcel it out and might leave it behind on a trip rather than bringing it along. This was not the case with King’s book Writers and Lovers. I made time daily to read it closely and took notes because so much of the main character’s musings resonate with me.
Early on in the book, Casey, a 31-year-old writer, reflects on conversations she had with old lovers and friends in different languages.
“Every conversation was a chance to excel, to frolic, to amuse myself and to surprise him,” she recalls.
This prompted a Kundera moment for me: the already known but never before said.
The stacks in my dorm room started with Kundera and then my advisor, a philosopher, added Proust and Sartre and Barthes.
My neighbor who was studying Keat’s reflected on the difference between her stacks and mine. “You have to dust all of mine off,” she chuckled with her sarcastic yet sultry librarian’s voice. Mine we’re mostly written by the living not the dead.
I connected with Casey, King’s character, strongly. She is smart and beautiful and has the power to attract people.
It is easy to wonder how many of the words that King penned but that Casey spoke are autobiographical. Like when Casey realizes Oscar, one of her writer lovers “is making decisions already....I think about how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them.”
Casey tries to deflect comments like “I bet she has a hundred guys following her.” I recently told a married man who was interested in me that the line forms to the left. It was meant to be funny. My best strategy to disarm those who comment on my appearance is is to say, “I am smarter than I look.”
And I am not just book smart, I am worldly with common sense and an ability like Casey, to excel and excite through conversation (in at least two languages).
Casey/King reference authors regularly and I knew I was in good company when Casey remarks that Jane Anne Phillips book “Black Tickets” is like a bible for her. Me too.
So I decided to start a little challenge: What book (or books) is on your bedside table? Please share here and elaborate why and for how long? It’s time to share what inspires us and join as many virtual conversations about books and art and music and friendship and staying healthy as we can.
Also maybe share your favorite book no one has heard of. King shared hers is “The Evening of the Holiday,” by Shirley Hazzard.
Please send me your lists at email@example.com
What book (or books) are on your bedside table?
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?