Friday, September 12, 2014

In Danger of Being Crushed

This month Sisters in Crime (SinC), the organization for women mystery writers (and men who support our mission), is sponsoring a "SinC-up for bloggers". SinC members are encouraged to blog about one or more of the suggested questions and then link to another author who will do the same:

http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=134

I going to answer the question: "What books are on your nightstand right now?" I like this question because I was horrified by how many books were on my nightstand. I had a Collyer Brothers (the notorious hoarders) moment  
as I imagined the pile getting higher and higher until it towered over my head on the pillow. Then I would make an awkward sweeping movement as I tossed in my sleep and all the books would come crashing down on my head. What a way to go! Done in by a pile of books in various stages of being read.

At present, there are only four books on my nightstand. I'll talk about what they are in a moment. But the reason there are only four books is because I realized the danger of having a pile of books between me and the water glass I sometimes wake up and fumble for in the middle of the night. I realized that about the time I bumped a book, hit the lamp, and knocked the glass over. By the time I had gotten out of bed and found a mop I'd concluded there was no sensible reason to have more than one book on the nightstand at a time. But somehow three more books found their way back there.

The problem is that I have so many books I need or want to get read, that it's not only what is on my nightstand but what I've just scooped off the floor by my armchair in the living room or what I've piled on top of other books in my bookcase.

Right now, I'm trying to focus on George Orwell's 1984. I've read this one before. But this semester, we're planning an event at school -- a screening of the most recent film adaptation followed by a panel discussion -- and I want to make sure the book is fresh in my mind. So I read 1984 last week on my flight home to Virginia and on the way back. And then I lost it for two days among the books in my house or at the office. The truth is, I still haven't found the copy I was reading. But, luckily, I'd purchased a new copy because I couldn't find the old one -- and then I found it and lost it again.

What else am I dipping into as I try to finish 1984?  A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell. I've read that one before, too, but I'm reading it again as I think about civility. I'm thinking about civility because that's the other part of our theme for the semester -- civility and surveillance in public spaces. I'm also reading Caldwell's book again because I'm thinking about these issues in relation to the book I'm writing about dress, appearance and criminal justice.

I'm still working -- slowly -- on my historical thriller set in 1939. So I have a copy of Studs Terkel's Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression on my nightstand. Important scenes in the book take place in New York City, so the fourth book on my table -- a bulky paperback of 700 pages -- is The WPA Guide to New York, produced by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s.

Two book are about to take their turn circulating off my bookshelves to my nightstand, or maybe only as far as the dining room table -- Does This Mean You'll See Me Naked: Field Notes From A Funeral Director by Robert D. Webster and Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. I'm reading the Webster book because the victim in my next Hannah McCabe book (What the Fly Saw, due out in March) is a funeral director. I started reading about the funeral industry and death rituals and superstitions as I was doing research. The Kingston book is rotating back in again because I'm in need of de-cluttering. I turn to that book when I need a boost to get my clutter at least sorted into tidy piles. If I could ever finish the process, I'm sure my feng shui would be much better and my life would become orderly. But, at least, having Kingston's slender book there on my table ensures I won't sink into Collyer-like chaos.

There you have it -- what's on my nightstand and a few of the books that are scattered about elsewhere. I know there was a time in my life when I read one book at a time. I still try to do that when I want to relax. But with so many books to be read, I often end up multi-reading -- going from book to book based on what calls to me any given moment. Confessions of a scattered reader.

And now, I'd like to introduce the author to whom I'm linking --Eleanor Kuhns:

http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com/

Eleanor and I are both members of the Upper Hudson Valley (Mavens of Mayhem) chapter of Sisters in Crime and we share the same publisher. Eleanor's first book, A Simple Murder, was the winner of the 2011 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel. She writes a historical mystery series set in the late 18th century. Take it away, Eleanor.

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