PV Headshot Jean Shriver.JPG

Jean Shriver

Every week the Sunday New York Times features an author in its Book Section. 

The interviewer always asks the writer what books are on their bedside stand. Some of the answers sound painfully honest.

One author listed a mystery, a bestseller and a book she is reading to her children. Others claim the table is stacked high with classics such as "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." Well, I suppose that could be true.

Another author said that James Boswell's "The Life of Samuel Johnson" is on his table and I wondered if that person was an insomniac looking for ways to induce sleep.

While musing on the disparity of choices made by the literati, I happened to glance at my own bedside table. 

There’s an Ellery Queen magazine I’m studying because I have a short story I want to pitch to them.

Atop the magazine is a copy of "The Overstory" by Richard Powers. It's a book I gifted to two on my Christmas list and received one from a family member.  I really want to read  this  book which I heard reviewed on the PBS News Hour.

However, just as I opened to page one, my hold on the latest Connelly mystery came through at the library and I’ve only got a week to read it. Got to tackle Harry Bosch before starting anything else.

Way at the back of the table is a slim book of essays by the poet Donald Hall. The title is "Notes Nearing Ninety."

It’s a perennial on my table.

I’ve been drawn to Hall since hearing he quit a career as a college professor to move into his grandfather’s house in New Hampshire. 

Having loved and lost a Massachusetts farmhouse that had been in my family for four generations, I wrote about it to Hall and he actually answered me. I also learned too late that Hall’s first wife was a woman I’d known in childhood. They divorced years ago, but he wrote a nice essay about a last peaceful visit with her as she was dying.

On a less altruistic note, I get a kick out of reading Hall’s battle to keep his false teeth in his mouth.

Smugly I reflect that all my teeth are firmly fixed in my gums where they’ve been for decades.

I know one-upmanship is not a nice game, but I can’t help wondering how Hall could be such a good writer and yet  back his car into the garage door so often that he had to stop driving. Lucky for me, my garage doesn’t have a door.

I wonder if all these writers read those piles of books while lying in bed at night. 

Do they have a big pillow with arms like I do? How is the light? Mine swings on an arm and it has with three settings.

And that reader of the Iliad? How long can he read before his eyelids get heavy?

My daughter-in-law puts books on her phone and when she wakes in the middle of the night, she claims she can read on and on peering at that tiny vinyl rectangle.

I definitely couldn’t do the same.

For one thing, I require the heft of a volume in my hands. And for another, when I wake at 4 a.m., I just tell myself stories until I go back to sleep.

Though the mischievous God of Wakefulness visits me more often these days, I refuse to give in or get up. 

And what about you? What’s on your bedside table?

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.