On mine: an ancient alarm clock (still works); two men’s watches (I still wear a watch and like it chunky); an onyx ashtray (it reminds me of the person who gave it to me); a beaded elephant (from Africa); a pen (you never know when I might wake up and need to write); a Tiffany jewelry box (empty); the latest UK Marie Claire and a stack of books. Not that anyone ever asked.
There is a lovely feature in the New York Times Book Review in which well-known authors are asked questions ranging from what books they are currently reading; what influenced them when they were children; their favorite genres etc. and I am always surprised and a bit intrigued that I hardly ever know any of their current reads. Is it because they sit and think of something smart and obscure for their answers?
I am even more intrigued by what other – regular – people read because it is usually the way I come across little gems I wouldn’t otherwise find. I often ask people, even strangers I just met, what they are reading – it helps when conversation is a bit stunted and to suss out what kind of person you are talking to.
There was a time when I couldn’t concentrate on more than one book at a time but, now, I tend to veer between two books, and have a stack ready for when I am done with either. Hence the bounty on my nightstand. Sometimes I will start a book and decide, a third in, it is not quite right for the time in my life, and put it back until my mood matches the story. Or is open to it.
Claire Messud – The Emperor’s Children. Found in the hospital’s library and brought home because I love Claire Messud’s intricate writing and this is her most famous book. On literary and pretentious New Yorkers pre-9/11. Excellent.
Emma Donoghue – Room. I am almost always behind on best sellers and it took a friend who pushed this into my hands to convince me. Needless to say, I haven’t seen the movie yet so no spoilers please.
Lev Tolstoy – War and Peace. In a translation I have been looking forward to for a long time and because our friend Eddie convinced me to watch the BBC mini-series and I was struck by a need to re-read it. If you are thinking “masochistic”, I might have to concur. I do love that book, though.
Umberto Eco – Numero Zero. As much as I find book clubs tedious potlucks dressed to impress, I was roped into this Italian book club by one of my best friends. And this is what they picked. A thriller by Umberto Eco is probably not worth your time. The Name of the Rose is or, better still, his essays on Italy are a lot of fun.
Elena Ferrante – My Brilliant Friend. I finally got the whole collection of four books, in Italian, and I am embarking on the voyage. Elena Ferrante is even more famous in the US than in Italy and her novels, recounting a friendship between two women from childhood to old age, have gathered accolades. Need to see what the fuss is all about. Elena Ferrante is a nom de plume for a Naples based writer whose identity is known only to her editor: trying to figure out who she really is has become a national (and international) pastime.
And what is on your nightstand?