Friday, April 05, 2013

Bedtime Reading (Not)

It has pleased fortune  these past few months to wake me up about two am and then leave me to languish and and beguile sleep until four, maybe five.

This is actually not as disagreeable as it may sound.  I don't have many adult commitments so I am free to nap more or less as the situation demands any time during the day.  And perhaps more important, I'm totally cool with reading in bed.  You could say I've probably got a lot more accomplished this way than if I tried to crowd in that sort of quality time during the middle of the day.

But I have learned one thing,.  That is: there are some books which, no matter how great their intrinsic merit, you just don't want to tuck down with when you are alone in the dark.

Let's skip the obvious choices like "The Tell-tale Heart."  Consider instead something like Elizabeth Pisani's The Wisdom of Whores.  It's a funny, gnarly, serious book about a serious subject (the subtitle is "Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS").    It's also full of driven, haunted, desperate people hellbent on screwing (pardon) up their lives.   Not the sort of thing that is going to waft you off to dreamland.   Or how about Ioan Grillo's El Narco, a superb account of the Mexican drug wars, great reading on its own account but believe me, watching reruns of The Sopranos can be more consoling.  Or even--this one sort of surprised me--Cynthia Freeland's justly admired The Plutocrats about the world-wide, world-class superrich:  you might think it is tame enough, but have you any idea just how crabby and disagreeable all these cosseted brats can be?

Other things can be positively consoling, in ways which can themselves surprise.  Books about the financial crisis are actually fairly easy to handle--gives you something intricate to get your mind around but in the end hey, it's only money.  Books about the (19) 30s and 40s can be just the ticket, at least if you skip the heavy-duty carnage of the war: this is my childhood we're talking about and at least I know how it turns out.   But do remind me to turn on the nightlight.  And while I think of it, just where did I leave my copy of Goodnight, Moon?

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