There is, on my night table at this very moment, such a stack of possibility that I can barely contain myself every time I glance at it. It’s things like this that, of late, make me resent the real world, the one with its clients and deadlines and meals to be cooked and dishes washed and laundry folded, and aging, creaking bodies to be maintained. Some days (okay, a lot of days) I even resent showering. I want to play wildly with the children at the end of the day and then put them, happy, to bed and retreat, refreshed, to the couch — or to a bathtub more comfortable than ours with its straight up-and-down sides, obviously designed by a non-reader — and immerse myself in any and all of these books. And yet, they’ve sat there, some of them, for months.
But no more! It’s spring, even if the thermometer dipped today back down to -15, and I am going to read. Here’s what’s in the stack:
- Foreskin’s Lament, by Shalom Auslander. Every time I hear this guy read one of his stories on National Public Radio’s This American Life, I want more. Angry, brutal, and astonishingly funny stories of growing up in — and eventually leaving — an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and community.
- Crisp, by R.W. Gray, known less formally in our circles as “Rob,” or our friendly resident sperm donor. I wonder if we would have chosen him after reading the book — the stories I’ve read thus far are full of fathers in trapped in burning cars and mothers who swell and swell and swell until they burst. I think we would have. Chosen him, that is.
- A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore. I know pretty much nothing about Moore, but her name just keeps popping up, spoken in reverential tones by people whose opinions I tend to admire. So I’m giving her a whirl.
- The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill. Rachel gave this to me for my birthday. I’m a few chapters in, and I get absolutely what all the fuss is about. Eager — and slightly scared — to continue.
- Salt Physic, by Jacqueline Larson. A confession: I’m not the best or most avid reader of poetry, but these ones about skinny-dipping and the contours of a grandmother’s — and a lover’s — body and salt and sweat and cornflakes keep hooking me. I read a couple at a time, in stolen moments. Plus, Jacqueline now has what may be the world’s most freakishly adorable baby.
- For the Time Being and An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard. If you teach a course in creative nonfiction, which I did this past fall, it is impossible to stop coming across paeans to Dillard as one of the genre’s founding and most talented voices. I grabbed these from a friend’s shelf to find out for myself. So far, I think I’m onto something.
- Half World, by Hiromi Goto. I haven’t read anything of Goto’s since Chorus of Mushrooms. ’Bout time.
Under the books are Dwell magazine, my escape into slightly pretentious but oh so pretty modernist architecture and decor, and Bitch and Bust magazines, for, respectively, “a feminist response to pop culture” and “women with something to get off their chests.”
God, I used to read, as a child, a dozen or more books a week. Whatever happened between then and now, I’m not so sure has been entirely a good thing.
What books are waiting on your nightstand?