In my last post, I told you about the books I like to read in the bathtub. This post is about the books I like to read in bed, or as the title suggests, the “books” I have stacked on my “nightstand,” which, for me is the Kindle that sits on my windowsill in between a plant and my clock radio.
Recently, I was reminded of a short story I read when I was young that stayed with me throughout my life. Of note, I was never much of a reader when I was a kid—that all came later. So when Joyce Maynard wrote about “For Esmé With Love and Squalor” by J.D. Salinger in her Jan 14 Facebook post, I knew I had to go to the library (remember those?) and pick up Nine Stories, the collection of his most famous short stories, to see if it would still have the same impact on me today. Chalk up one for the real nightstand!
I can’t speak for why it affected me as a child, other to say I was probably about the same age as Esmé when I read it (“about thirteen”) and found her to be an even greater heroine than Ramona the Pest. But now, I see what makes J.D. Salinger one of the greatest authors of our time. And that’s due in part to his attention to detail in sentences like this one:
“Abruptly, with nothing special in mind, I came away from the window and put on my raincoat , cashmere muffler, galoshes, woolen gloves, and overseas cap (the last of which, I’m still told, I wore at an angle all my own—slightly down over both ears.) “
He could have stopped at “raincoat.”
To this day, I will always correct someone when they use the word “facilities” when they mean “faculties,” as upon Esmé’s exit from the tearoom in which she had the life-altering conversation with a soldier, she told him, “I hope you return from the war with all your faculties intact.” (Spoiler alert: he didn’t.)
Speaking of stories about wartime, one download on my Kindle is A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. This one made its way on there after I saw the HBO movie Hemingway and Gelhorn, starring the very sexy and convincing Clive Owen as Hemingway. The movie reminded me that I’ve never read Hemingway, a sentiment only reinforced by Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook when his character raves on about all the problems he had with the World War I love story during his manic romp in the middle of the night, and gives the ending away to boot. I don’t really think knowing the ending matters when it comes to Hemingway though.
While the trailer for Silver Linings Playbook may be hard to hide from during Oscar time, sometimes I like to go to a movie without knowing anything about it, just to be completely surprised by the story. The same holds true for books. That was the case with my next nightstand book, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I downloaded it without reading the book jacket copy because of its title, (my blog has a section for “love in NYC” so love gets me every time), the attention to typesetting on the cover and the fact that a friend of mine who reads a lot mentioned in passing that it was her favorite book.
I will tell you something—I have no idea what I’m reading. It seems to be about three different characters that are related by this book called The History of Love (a book within a book, if you will) and the effects of World War II on their lives. I didn’t even know if The History of Love was a real book before this one or just the name of the fictional book in the story until I googled it. I think this may make a case for always reading jacket copy before you read a book, at least for me. Now I know why I am working so hard on the paragraph that will hopefully be on the back of my own book one day.
Jami Kelmenson is a freelance writer and blogger living and loving in New York City. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, Crossing Paths. Read of her ongoing tales of travel, life, love and the pursuit of getting published in NYC at her blog, www.jamikellywriter.tumblr.com.
Have you ever read a book when you were younger and then reread it as an adult? How was the experience the same or different for you?
Have you read Hemingway?
How much does the jacket copy influence your decision to read a book?