Celebrity readers always claim to enjoy only the highbrow, but real life bedroom tastes are a little more cosmopolitan. So no fibbing, what’s on your bedside table?
Pardon my familiarity, dear reader, but may I ask: what’s by your bedside? I’m not talking about the glass of water, lamp, radio, earplugs, exotic and so on, not to mention that terrifying-looking chrome-plated sex toy purchased from a semi-legitimate Russian website. No, what I’m curious about is your reading material, nocturnal or otherwise.
Newspapers and magazines may be very fond of those “what I’m reading now” questionnaires, in which someone of note divulges the books they’re currently enjoying, but my problem is this: I don’t believe them. There’s a suspicious uniformity to the responses; more specifically, those questioned always seem to be reading the most highbrow, trendy, intellectual and impressive works possible, often several at a time.
You know the sort of thing I mean: “This week So-and-So the Theatre Director/BBC mandarin/prime minister read The Divine Comedy (for the fourth time), An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth by Bertrand Russell, and the new Zadie Smith novel, so fresh off the presses you can actually make out Zadie’s thumbprint in the margin of page 112.”
They’ll usually embellish the stark details of title and author with some personal colour: “I first read Dante as an undergrad and feared I would find it rather too overwrought and theologically crude, but was delighted to discover that the unique mélange of regional dialects still sings from the page. I was reminded of a hiking holiday to Tuscany in 1978 during which I blah blah blah waffle waffle insert fictitious travel anecdote here.”
It’s all quite amusing, but not 100% plausible. Do any of us really restrict our reading to high art? Surely it’s a mixture of high and low and everything in between.
Maybe this is just my inner doofus raising his slovenly, Cro-Magnon, easily-confused-by-anything-elliptical-or-non-linear head, but at the moment I’m hopping between a history of the Medici family, The New Annotated Dracula, a review copy of David Mitchell’s forthcoming novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a Jeffrey Deaver thriller so disposable and throwaway that I can’t remember the name of it even though I just put it down five minutes ago, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
But that’s normal, isn’t it? And more than that, it’s healthy. Consuming nothing but grand literature is like only eating rich, fine food; we all need variety or else our palate becomes jaded. And besides, one appreciates the genius of Italo Calvino or Samuel Beckett even more keenly when set against some straightforward non-fiction or trashy, fun genre novel.
It’s best, I think, to mix one’s biblio-diet. Fine literature is an excellent staple, incredibly nourishing and satisfying, but there’s no harm indulging every now and again in a crime novel, an autobiography or a dissertation on pop culture.
Which is just another reason to distrust these “what I’m reading” lists. Certainly, we all would like to think our reading never dips below the intellectual level of Six Characters in Search of an Author, Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica and the collected works of Pushkin in the original Russian. But thinking ain’t the same as being.
So come on, fess up: what’s by your bedside? What did you read this week? What are the spices and sweetmeats of your literary stew?
We want to be told, with one proviso: absolutely no fibbing. We don’t want word getting out about that sex aid …