I want to hear what books you have on your nightstand. Send me a photo and tell me a little bit about what you are reading now!
To submit your story, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Warlick, The Arrangement
I’m the buyer for M. Judson, and so I’m always wrestling with a stack of galleys. Right now, I’m reading something lent to me by one of my bookstore partners that somehow I missed, Brady Udall’s novel The Lonely Polygamist, about a Mormon fundamentalist with four wives who somehow finds the time to an affair in the midst of his midlife crisis. It’s the sort of book you read passages of aloud: funny, tender, smart, and big. Sweeping. It’s given me a newfound appreciation for books that reach for all corners.
Mary Alice Monroe, A Lowcountry Wedding
The book on my nightstand currently is The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. I read that long ago but Pat said that that was the book he was the most proud of and I began reading it again after his death. I understand why he made such a strong statement. The reader shares his journey out to Daufuskie Island with his students and can witness through his words his discovery of his passion for the Lowcountry landscape, for equality of races and for education. A wonderful book.
Photo credit: Mic Smith photography
Lindsay Starck, Noah’s Wife
Some of the best books I’ve read in the past year are Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, which I know that lots of people are talking about– for good reason! They’re excellent. Currently I’m reading Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, which I picked up in preparation for a trip to Egypt. It is so rich in detail and setting that I can only read a little bit at a time… as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s somewhat like nibbling on a decadent sweet.
Peter Selgin, The Inventors
Selgin is an award winning author and professor of creative writing at Georgia College. He spoke with me about his memoir “The Inventors” for a story in the City Paper. He was kind enough to answer my question about books on his nightstand and has in fact covered this topic before in the essay UNCLASSIFIABLES: A TOUR OF BOOKS ON MY BED STAND in the Kenyon Review.
1. Dangling Man, by Saul Bellow. This is one of those books I return to constantly; in fact, if it’s not on my bed stand, it’s never that far away. The epistolary novel’s existential plot appeals to me. World War II; Chicago. Joseph, a young man, awaits induction. Meanwhile, he’s unemployed and unemployable—”dangling.” But what appeals to me most is the beauty of Bellow’s prose, and especially the power of his descriptions. “And the houses, their doors and windows open, drawing in the freshness, were like old drunkards or consumptives taking the cure.”
2. In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, by Delmore Schwartz. Another book I return to habitually. Schwartz’ stories, written when he was still very much a young man (he never lived to write as an older one) are charged with a young man’s earnest yearning. The title story reaches the same surreal heights as Kafka’s best works: not the sterile clever surreality of so much contemporary work, but surreality charged with urgent emotion.
3. Adventures in Immediate Irreality, by Max Blecher (English trans. by Michael Henry Heim). Published recently for the first time in English by New Directions, Blecher’s hyper-realist masterpiece accomplishes in a just over 100 pages what took Proust seven volumes. That’s an exaggeration, but Blecher reaches the same level of intensity. More amazing still: he wrote his masterpiece in his twenties while dying of tuberculosis of the spine.
4. Cain’s Book, by Alexander Trocchi, a novel in the form of the journal of a heroin junkie living on a gravel scow in New York harbor. First embraced (along with Burrough’s Junkie) by the sixties counterculture, the book’s lasting value, for me, owes less to its anarchic message than to the magnificence of Trocchi’s prose. Trocchi’s description of a storm at sea is as good as anything in Conrad or Patrick O’Brien, and his portrait of an ineffectual father is both moving an poignant.
5. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö: a police-procedural / crime mystery novel co-authored in the sixties by the Swedish couple (who wrote books separately as well). Very-well done. Substantial depth of character achieved by way of no-nonsense prose. Better—or at least as good as—Simenon.
The common theme here, I guess, if there is one, is intensity: I like intense books, books imbued with the souls of their authors, who, with every sentence, put themselves on the line.