Bedside Manner: Treehouse Tomes
Up in the air with Klosterman, Murakami, and more
By Monica Riese, 11:16AM, Mon. Jan. 3, 2011
Good news: I have the distinct advantage of appearing on this blog following my birthday, Christmas, and the commencement of the judging portion of The Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest. I should have no excuse for shameful bedside offerings, right?
Bad news: I have the distinct disadvantage of sleeping in a mattress-sized cubby lofted above my bathroom and Liliputian laundry facilities.
I should clarify. I live in a Rosedale garage apartment I've lovingly dubbed the Treehouse. It's only a few hundred square feet, but it's mine (all mine!), and its owners effectively doubled the space inside by vaulting the roof, closing off the bathroom and laundry area at normal ceiling height, and tossing a ladder up against the wall, so I threw my mattress up in that corner and called it a day. It sounds primitive, but I get to enjoy the two massive windows that bookend my apartment and all of the natural light that comes with 'em, I live without roommates or their ancillary drama, and I still have full-sized appliances for my primary hobby (disease?) – baking. More on that in a moment.
Second bit of bad news, and a bit of a confession: As a proofreader for the Chronicle, I am lucky enough to read all day and get paid for it. I mean, it's slightly more complicated than that, but at its root form, that's my job. The downside here is that, after fixing my eyes on a computer monitor and tiny typefaces for eight hours, I get home in the evening and want nothing more than to pry my eyes from their sockets and flop on the couch and mumble quietly about misplaced modifiers. The idea of putting down the paper only to pick up a book makes me weep for my steadily worsening vision.
All of which is a very long-winded way of saying: I haven't actually gotten very far in any of the things you see piled on the floor next to my bed. (Bedside table? Ha! The lamp barely made the cut.) Also, it's a somewhat skewed sample, because obviously I'd prefer to show you the 30 shelves of books that don't make it up to the loft, but we're dealing with severely limited space here.
But hey! I was a liberal arts student! I live for the humanities! And I have dozens of friends whose opinions I trust about what to read (in fact, their suggestions make up not only the page-long list I keep in my purse for unplanned BookPeople drop-ins, but also a fairly large chunk of the books I already own), so I feel reasonably confident in posting this indelibly on the intarwubs despite being relatively unable to confidently assert anything about any of these books. There, I said it.
Without further ado, let's take it from the top.
Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was most recently a recommendation from my cousin via my brother, though others before them have suggested it, and I just hadn't gotten around to it. I did, however, read through "[t]he twenty-three questions I ask everybody I meet in order to decide if I can really love them" with my brother at an uncle's house over Thanksgiving, and we decided several were really rather nonnegotiable (of course Nessie gets front-page play over some days-away biopsy).
Below that sits We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a Shirley Jackson number I borrowed from Brenner at a housewarming party – aw hell – last year. I'm actually about halfway through it, but I'm thinking of writing a stern letter to the folks at Popular Library. They claim this book is magical and that "once you have opened its cover, you will be placed under a spell that cannot be broken until you turn the last page." Yeah? Well I've managed to set it down several times, and were I not a completist about books, I'd struggle to pick it back up again, honestly. (Dear Brenner: I hope we can still be friends. I promise I'll give it another go. Puppies and sneaker doodles, M.)
Good-Bye, Chunky Rice (Craig Thompson) is my friend Zoe's favorite book, and I so enjoyed the author's Blankets that I figured this would probably be a good follow-up. Really, though, I highly recommend reading friends' favorite books: Sometimes you'll find yourself sitting through The Old Man and the Sea for the first time since seventh grade, but whether you like it or not, you'll end up with some valuable perspective and a good dinner debate topic.
Fourth in the pile is Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart, which was recommended to me by an old – ahem, a former (you're welcome, Hutch) – professor. I'd already read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle on recommendation from another friend, Taft, but why not try one of the lesser-knowns? Also, and you're probably sensing a theme here, it's delightfully short by comparison, so my wimpy eyes are more willing to accommodate.
Finally comes The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, which was half of my Christmas present from my friend Kristin – the other half being a Cuisinart automatic ice cream and frozen yogurt maker that's going to be the death of me and/or all the baked-good guinea pigs I like to call co-workers. It's a little bit cheating, I suppose, to include a recipe book in the pile of things I'm (at least ostensibly) reading, but I've been flipping through trying to settle on what to try first and wondering whether "temporary artery closure by means of delicious noms" is a valid excuse for a sick day. Also, pro tip: Looking at pictures of ice cream before falling asleep is an awesome way to mess with your dream world.
The rest, from left to right: the lamp that doesn't actually make the space any brighter but makes me feel less like a vagabond; a book light for compensating for the lamp's failures in light distribution; a folder of 20 entries to the aforementioned short story contest that I'll be getting to right after I finish writing this post; a notepad and (out of view) Sharpie pen, because if you slept up a ladder and ever woke up in the middle of the night with a jolt and an idea you're bound to forget by morning, you'd also quickly learn that things downstairs might as well be in Bangladesh; Benadryl and Kleenex, because as much as I love the Treehouse, I'm allergic to everything that grows in the ground and all of the accompanying pollen, as well as dust, dust mites, and the three-footed cat that's adopted me; and ear plugs for 1) the mornings that the 35 construction workers who are demolishing my street at regular intervals decide to race to work at 7am in reverse and 2) the fact that squirrels scampering across a roof are inordinately loud when that roof is 8 inches above your head. Out of view: seven half empty (half full?) water bottles, because again, getting things from up there to down here is apparently impossible.
I'll touch base again in a few months, if Kimberley will have me and if Brenner hasn't strangled me and if I'm able to reclaim my extracurricular literacy between now and then. Don't judge; I hear admitting it is the first step.