The monthly writers magazine Mslexia has a regular column called ‘X,s (celebrity’s name) Bedside Table.’
My bedside table is an old wooden table I painted a blue-grey. It has two surfaces, the top and a shelf near to the floor. The permanent features are a lamp with shade, a travelling alarm clock – I never use the alarm feature – and a bottle of hand cream. There are always books but never such a pile as I have at the moment. I am in a ‘non-reading’ state of mind. I suspect that’s because, finally, I have finished all the work I have to do on my memoir. The proof-read text and the cover are with the publisher. The publishing date is 28 March 2019. My mind is a blank.
However, I must read these books or replace them on the appropriate bookshelves. The reason they are on my bedside table at all is:
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner pub. Jonathan Cape – a Booker Prize winner. Recently I had a hankering to see the brilliantly done BBC film of the book. I think it was broadcast in episodes. I found the DVD and watched it, complete with bar of chocolate, on a Saturday evening. Pure bliss. Reading it yet again is a recipe for instant sleep. I know the text by heart. The characters are still crafted with skill and the story entertaining but I’m not sure I need to finish it. It will be returned to its shelf.
Tea with Mr Rochester by Frances Towers pub. Persephone Books. Short stories are perfect to read in bed; cleverly satisfying and complete. Also an inducement to sleep. This will stay.
Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde pub. Bodley Head. This is there because one of my New Year’s Resolutions as to follow my self-induced task of making a study of fairy stories and folk takes. I have hardly begun in and we are in December. This will stay.
Seven Tales of Sex and Death by Patricia Duncker pub. Picador. I bought this after hearing the writer talk at an evening at The Royal Society of Literature and because I’m working on a collection of stories about unusual deaths. The problem with this anthology is that the stories give me nightmares. I have two still to read. This will stay.
Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee pub Vintage. I much enjoyed Edith Wharton’s novels and Hermione Lee’s writing is always a pleasure to read. In the most literate way, of course. This will stay.
The 19th Century Underworld by Stephen Carver pub. Pen & Sword. A recent aquisition. A subject I’ve always been interested. Let’s face it the criminals are always more interesting than the heroes. This book demands a second reading – at least. It is fascinating but, again, an easy-to-read book. Difficult to put down until sleep takes over. The cover is brilliant, the book beautifully produced. Seeing we are now in December, I’ll add that it would make the perfect Xmas gift to anyone who has an interest in social history. Why oh why couldn’t 16-year-old schoolgirls be given the option to take, instead of O Level political history, O Level social history. Then my grade might have been an A rather than a C! This book will probably live on my bedside table.