By Joycelyn Moody - JMoody's Musings
For the longest, I had a teeming stack of textbooks and school papers on my nightstand. Think Harryette Mullen’s enchanting Sleeping with the Dictionary. Then, motivated to write earlier on work-week mornings, I removed all stimulating electronics and books from my bedroom for better sleep hygiene.
Gradually, though, I relapsed into bringing in a book or two for night reading. Not inclined toward self-flagellation (well, maybe, but not concerning books), I’m accepting my bibliophile tendencies (euphemism for nerd, or in my case, blerd). Still, I’ve disallowed all work-related books, and paring down can be good. Seems like it’s always all about the balance.
I know a lot of y'all reading this love a good book, too, so I thought I’d share my musings about what’s been on my nightstand—and what’s still there as summer arrives.
Still there: Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women—you could say I’m a Gay fan. (Hey! That’s a pun. Didn’t intend that, at first, I swear.) Signed by the author, too, after a reading at BookPeople in Austin last July. Fans, eat your hearts out. (But err-- Dr. Gay, if you’re reading this, I was the very cute, Black baby boomer, gushing, purposely at the end of the line.) Thus far, I’ve been fascinated by these particular, and particularly, Difficult Women, so I’m still slowly savoring a story on a random night. Generally, I like to have short fiction on hand, precisely for their conciseness. Who doesn’t love a vivid world that wraps up in less than an hour?
I also thrill to quizzes—the kind in women’s magazines and the New York Times that assess the health of your sex life, physical body, productivity, family relations, like that. I’m proudly not yet married, but for nightly browsing, I nonetheless bought John M. Gottman and Nan Silver’s second edition of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. It’s full of all manner of soft-to-severe interrogations for couples. My Not (Yet) Wife, a clinical psychologist, looked on with both rolled eyes (which, by the way, Gottman famously cites as a death knoll in romantic relationships) and soothing words: “Buy it if it’ll make you feel safer, dear.” Of course, I quizzed her ad nauseum on our last two-hour drive to the beach in celebration of our 22nd anniversary. What better way to ….?
A close friend who died a year ago was always trying to get me to read Zadie Smith. When it first came out, I got halfway through Smith’s White Teeth when Smarter Me sweetly assured Good Student Me I didn’t have to finish reading a novel I wasn’t enjoying, even though, or especially since, I’d devoted so much time to it. But after my friend died, I started listening to an audio version of Smith’s more recent novel Swing Time about Black British Gen X women. Highly recommend, especially for readers who enjoy mentally leaving home, as this contemporary story makes transatlantic and diasporic migrations across multiple continents and into the psyche. On my night stand, I had a library print copy, to take in all the details—visual as well as verbal—one misses with audiobooks. Word to the wise: an audio version runs about 14 hours.
Finally, Claire of the Sea Light might prove a quick-read for most, but I’ve been so wiped out by the time I hit the hay each night, I’ve hardly managed to read two paragraphs before dozing off. I closed this Edwidge Danticat novel with more insight into the ways we make decisions for others, often unwittingly. More insight into how we compel others in our sphere to confront and grapple with the proverbial action-reaction-consequences of our own lessons. Luminous, to steal an adjective from the cover blurbs. Claire’s story is set on the Haitian coast, where she is only seven years old. Yet Danticat’s affecting novel surveys primarily adult decisions and the entanglements they activate. Kinda (positive) spoiler alert: Claire of the Sea Light ends happier than other fiction Danticat’s won prizes for. Still, it’s African diasporic feminist teachings are breathlessly powerful. I’m glad I read it. Who knew I am such a sucker for “elsewhere” explorations.
Claire retired, my night table presently holds only a coloring book and Difficult Women. Soon, though, I’ll have my turn with the local library’s copy of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and the copy of Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro I ordered for a summer conference should arrive soon. (Yeah, that’s me boasting.) But wait. Would the latter count as a schoolbook? All about the balance.
Until next time,