Bedtime Stories, May 2014
- May 23, 2014
What do literary types have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked a couple of them, and here’s what they said.
Working in publishing, it’s ironically always a struggle to find time to read for pleasure, but I try to keep my “before bed” reading squarely in the work-free zone, with rare exception. I like to try and read things I am simply not able to publish with Pegasus, first and foremost being classic novels like War and Peace.
I am reading the War and Peace translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I read Tolstoy’s definitive classic in college (I minored in Russian), but it’s a joy to read it now without a paper deadline looming or trying to suss out scholarly semantics in the text before a lecture. I can simply let the story wash over me, like music, which is the best way to enjoy a novel like this. To become immersed in the world of Natasha, Pierre, and Prince Andrei is the ultimate nighttime treat! I had read Pevear and Volokhonsky’s glorious translation of Anna Karenina a few years ago, and have been itching to find time to read their War and Peace. Their work is a dream.
Tolstoy is many things, but I wouldn’t say he’s humorous. To add some levity to my nightstand, my parents gave me Bob Mankoff’s How About Never—Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons for my birthday a few weeks ago. When I was a kid, I loved to doodle and draw, and I always had the silly pipe dream of becoming a cartoonist. Mankoff is living the dream, and reading his personal story, interwoven with the history of cartoons in the New Yorker, is laugh-out-loud funny, and I am not ashamed to admit that before I started reading the narrative, I flipped through and read all the cartoons first!
I just finished Jim Harrison’s The River Swimmer, and bought his new collection, Brown Dog. While most people fell in love with Harrison after reading Legends of the Fall, I actually have always been drawn to his Brown Dog character. I’ve spent some time in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, and Harrison captures the rough beauty and rawness of the land and its people better than even my own memory. Plus, the hapless Brown Dog is one of the most unique characters in contemporary fiction.
For a bit of inspiration in the event I am gearing up for a morning workout, Chrissie Wellington’s A Life Without Limits is dog-eared and covered with Power Bar stains. I am always coming back to it. The four-time Ironman World Champion is one of the greatest athletes of our time, and her memoir about her struggle with an eating disorder and her super-human wins in Hawaii continues to inspire me. I loved learning that she read Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” before every race and whenever she needed help through a tough patch. Her infectious joy and love of the sport come through on every page.
Finally, what would a nightstand of a publisher be without at least one work project? Having already mentioned Tolstoy, I am editing a book now by Alexandra Popoff, author of The Wives, which Pegasus published a few years ago. Popoff’s new book is about Vladimir Chertkov, the man who became Tolstoy’s great friend and confidant during his spiritual years. Chertkov held such immense influence over the writer, from reading his diary to having “first look” at all his work. And then there was the famous conflict between Chertkov and Sophia Tolstoy. Chertkov was able to actually stop her from seeing her own husband on his deathbed! The book, Tolstoy’s False Disciple, will be out this November. Popoff is a tremendous researcher and elegant writer, and so my work as her editor is very rewarding.
Of course, this will all immediately be swept to the floor the moment the new Hilary Mantel novel is released!
Jessica Case is the associate publisher of Pegasus Books, an independent trade publisher based in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two dogs, Sasha and Cromwell. Follow Jessica on Twitter at @TwoIronSisters.
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ~C. S. Lewis
I would add to the above quote, “or enough books to suit me,” because I always have a pile at my fingertips, and I often commit the dreadful act of book infidelity by devouring many at once. My current stack is a mixture of published and forthcoming fiction and nonfiction, and my reading choices usually involve history in either form.
Without further ado:
GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, telling true stories of British women who married American GIs during WWII. It is a charming book that is already a bestseller in the U.K., and it will be published in the U.S. soon.
Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion, an anthology to which I am a contributor, along with Melanie Benjamin, Jenna Blum, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Sarah Jio, Sarah McCoy, Kristina McMorris, Alyson Richman, and Karen White. It takes place at Grand Central Terminal in New York City one month after the end of WWII; it comes out July 1, 2014.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I am a longtime fan of Patchett’s novels and essays, and I am savoring every word of this beautiful, heartbreaking book.
Ordinary Mysteries: The Common Journal of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. I have read this many times for research for my forthcoming novel featuring the Hawthornes, and I gain new insights each time I peruse its pages.
Books waiting on my shelves include, but are not limited to:
- Wake by Anna Hope.
- Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War by Amanda Vaill.
- Wash by Margaret Wrinkle.
Erika Robuck self-published her first novel, Receive Me Falling. Her novel Hemingway’s Girl (NAL/Penguin) was a Target Emerging Author Pick, a Vero Beach Bestseller, and has sold in two foreign markets to date. Call Me Zelda (NAL/Penguin) made the Southern Independent Booksellers Bestseller list and is a Target Recommended Read. Fallen Beauty was released on March 4, 2014. She is also a contributor to Grand Central (June 2014, Berkley/Penguin), a short-story anthology set at Grand Central Terminal in New York following World War II. Erika also writes about and reviews historical fiction at her blog, Muse, and is a contributor to the fiction blog Writer Unboxed. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Hemingway Society, and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society.