Bedside Manner: The Cheat

Sometimes the best books are the ones you don't read

Disputed territory
Disputed territory

With all this blogging about beds and dogs, I'm shocked no one has yet resorted to the Stooges reference. "I'll lay right down in my favorite place," y'all? Anyone? Is this thing on?

For reasons far too dull to relate, I don't read in bed much. Strewn throughout other areas of my house, you'll find the usual periodical lineup – half-read, awkwardly folded, inartfully arranged: The New York Times, Bitch, Bust, the New Yorker, the Texas Observer, and the occasional copy of Nylon when I'm trying (in vain) to keep up. Oh, and stacks and stacks of design magazines. Homer & Langley-conjuring stacks, ridiculous piles of meticulously styled photos of buildings and clothing and landscapes, pristine periodical compilations now covered in dust and clutter. At certain times of year, landscaping and gardening books will appear, reinforcing the aspirational hoarder vibe.

All of these trifles I read everywhere but the bedroom: couch, desk, tub, table, porch. But when I tire of roaming and want to settle in with some meaty tome or pore over a ravishing coffeetable book, I head to the front room of my house, the most hoarder-ly place of all. In the corner of this room, surrounded by bookshelves, is a piece of furniture – really just a stack of mattresses – that I call "the daybed" but that my dogs, Bella Baker and Cooper Baker, clearly understand to be "their bed." Our struggles for control of this cushy territory are comic and epic and ongoing, as we are all very large and rowdy, but never mind that for the moment.

Instead, turn your attention to the wobbly narrow table, which at one point might have been some kind of credenza, at the foot of this purported daybed. For on this table are piles of books.

It is this table, far better than my nightstand, that tells the story of my bookish accomplishments and failures, delusions and ambitions.

The books here fall roughly into the following categories: the book I should be reading to review (Colm Tóibín's short story collection, The Empty Family); the book I'm really reading (Freedom – not all that, so far); books I recently reviewed (Exley, Brock Clarke's sweet novel of adolescence and literary worship); books I pulled out for a workshop or class I taught (pretty much all the music-related books, my favorite here being Marooned, which updates Stranded, Greil Marcus' landmark comp of music criticism); books I unearthed or checked out of the library because they are related to books I reviewed, or will (The Gay Place, Tóibín's Brooklyn, Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes); books I was supposed to blog about but never did (Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez, Charles Bowden and Alice Leora Briggs' collaborative, illustrated meditation on that town's murder-saturated, otherworldly state).

Finally, there are the books that at one point everyone in the world was reading (Middlesex), or that someone somewhere recommended (Moonlight Mile), or that I wandered home with, thinking they looked interesting (Literary Houston, part of a so-far excellent TCU Press series of anthologies structured around Texas cities and their notable writers). Due to the pressures of time and work and a complicated relationship with Time Warner, and despite the fact that I almost frantically want to, I will in all likelihood never read these books. Even so, in some ways, they are my favorite books of all.

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Bedside Manner, bedside reading, Freedom, The Empty Family, Brooklyn, The Gay Place, Exley, A Fan's Notes, Stranded, Marooned, Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez, Literary Houston, Middlesex, Moonlight Mile

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