This post is in response to a Wordpress prompt, which I think, to my shame, is more than a week old now, on List-making. The link is above – clicking the link will take you to all the posts written in response to this prompt.
Poetry is beyond me if I’m going to get this post published today, so – look, behold! A non-poetic list of the books piled up on my bedside table, for all the world as if I’m reading them, and then, another list, providing a bit more information about where they sit on the scale of being read or not being read, or something in-between.
List 1: Books on my bedside table
- In Fact – The Best of Creative Non Fiction – Edited by Lee Gutkind
- Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
- An Intimate History of Humanity, by Theodore Zeldin
- The Memoir Book, by Patti Miller
- Raising Girls, by Gisela Preuschoff
- Wassily Kandinsky – Concerning The Spiritual In Art, translated and with an introduction by M.T.H Sadler
- The Artist’s Way (A Course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self) – Julia Cameron
- 2 different copies of The Monthly, an Australian magazine focussing on “Politics, Society and Culture”
- 1 copy of Believer, an American literary magazine
- 1 copy of The Canary Press, an Australian “story” magazine
List 2: Notes on the books on my bedside table:
- In Fact – Time spent on the bedside table: about 4 weeks so far. I just started reading this about a week ago. The essay that made the greatest impression on me so far is the first one, Three Spheres by Lauren Slater, a piece about a psychologist who finds herself treating a bi-polar bulimic woman in the very same unit where she had been treated for the same disorders a decade earlier.
- Olive Kitteridge has been there only about a month. It was given to me by my partner (who constantly finds and buys cheap books at Op Shops/Thrift Stores) so went straight onto the bedside table. It’s a novel, and winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, so must be worth reading, right?
- Half read, has been there about 3 months. I was ploughing through An Intimate History of Humanity and enjoying it’s unusual, and, yes, intimate, take on history, with chapters entitled How some people have acquired an immunity to loneliness, and Why there has been more progress in cooking than in sex, but then came to a grinding halt, suddenly felt bored, and decided to read some fiction, so that’s what I’ve done over the past few weeks. Planning to go back and read the rest…sometime soon.
- Time on the bedside table: a couple of years. It’s there for guidance: I read bits and pieces of The Memoir Book intermittently when I need inspiration for writing, as it contains some good ideas for writing exercises. Have never read through the entire book from start to end.
- Raising Girls has been next to my bedside table, possibly since my daughter was in primary school. She is now in year 11 and I have yet to open it. At this stage, my modified plan is to wait until she is 21, and then read it to find out just how much I got wrong.
- I love Kandinsky’s paintings – but then again, there are a lot of paintings I like. My interest in Kandinsky is no stronger than my interest in any other artist of his era. Nevertheless, about 3 years ago, completely unprompted, a work colleague brought this book in to work to lend to me. I have to admit, I have not made much headway with it. It sat there for about a year before I opened it. At that point, I gave it a try, and got about as far as the end of the introduction. It’s kind of awkward now to give it back and say that I haven’t read it, so it continues to sit on my bedside table. We stare at each other sometimes, that book and I, but then I pick up something else.
- The Artist’s Way is another book that my partner found in an Op Shop and brought home for me, sometime within the last year. He obviously thought, very sweetly, that it would be inspiring for me, so I put it on my bedside table. I have not opened it yet.
- 2 old copies of The Monthly were purchased for about $1 each in an Op Shop, probably 5 months ago. I picked one out because I mistakenly thought it had a portrait (the written variety) of our previous prime minister Julia Gillard in it. My interest in that was mainly because I needed to write a portrait of someone, as part of a writing course I was doing online, and I thought it would be useful to read an example. But the article turned out to be a general one about sexism in politics in the time that Gillard was prime minister – not what I was after. The other copy was their Summer issue, with a long list of authors on the cover, so I bought it on the assumption that it would include lots of short pieces of writing to read and learn from. So far I have not opened it.
- About 2 years ago, my partner gave me a subscription to The Believer magazine for my birthday, knowing my interest in reading essays and pieces of non-fiction writing, or perhaps mainly because Nick Hornby writes the music criticism and we both enjoy Hornby’s fiction. There seemed to be some kind of stuff-up with the subscription though, so it took about a year before the issues actually started arriving. This must have been the final issue, which probably only arrived early this year. I’ve read most of it but perhaps didn’t finish it. It includes a short story by Miranda July, a contemporary artist who dabbles in all sorts of media, including films, and writing short stories. I’ve enjoyed any of her writing that I’ve read so far. I found some articles in Believer were a bit too dry and intellectual for my (very average) tastes/abilities, and there are a lot of interviews with people I’ve never heard of (eg in this issue, Michael Schur, Ronald Cotton, Jerry Stahl, Megan Rapinoe) so of course, that has the effect of making me feel as if I’m not the culturally aware (and American) intellectual they are writing for. Has probably been there about 6 months.
- The year before that, my partner gave me a subscription to The Canary Press for my birthday. It was a risk on his part, because the magazine only publishes fiction, and my interest in writing lies more in non-fiction. I read fiction, although not normally in magazines, where I mostly look for non-fiction articles. Still, as it was a gift, tentatively, I gave it a go. Well, to my surprise, I fell instantly in love with this magazine. It’s the best literary magazine I’ve ever found, largely because the editors have such a sense of humour about their endeavour – which is definitely NOT to say that all the writing they publish is humorous, nor that the magazine should not be taken seriously. I loved it so much that the following year when my copies of Believer were steadfastly failing to arrive, I found myself thinking back fondly to the days when I had a subscription to The Canary Press. Eventually, I just took out another subscription myself. (It was surprisingly well priced!) The stories constantly surprise me with their creativity and are unlike anything I’d ever think to write, yet if I aspired to writing fictional stories, I could do worse than aspire to write something suitable for this magazine. Each issue usually includes one piece by a well-established writer, such as Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proux, which I re-read in a previous issue with great pleasure, having completely forgotten that it was a short story, mis-remembering it as a full-blown novel. I think I finished reading the issue that’s on the bedside table, so I’m not sure how long it’s been there, or why it is still there, either. I put it down to laziness. Or fondness.