Alphabooks: Z is for Zzz-snatcher

Z: Zzz-Snatcher

I hate to end this series of prompt posts on a weak note.  Perhaps I’ll come up with something splendid and impressive on the morrow, like a new letter beginning a secret word which is relevant to more interesting books that I haven’t talked about yet.

But for today, the question is “What book is so good that you didn’t go to sleep until you’d finished it?”

The thing is, I am rather good at staying awake most of the time, which is to say that lately it’s taken more effort to go to bed than to stay up past 1 or 2 AM.

So the last books I stayed up to finish, more because I was determined to finish reading them than because they were so gripping, were BJ Novak’s One More Thing and CS Lewis’s Spirits in Bondage.  Both are interesting enough; Spirits in Bondage was Jack’s first published book and represents his pre-conversion regard for Nature, red in tooth and claw.  One More Thing is also a first book, though Novak has years of writing for television under his belt.  The “stories and other stories” vary in length and in theme, though they all have something of the same tone: light-hearted, verbally playful, taking things to their logical conclusion, and touched with the same edge of despair that ended up taking Douglas Adams off my “favorite authors everrr!” list.

Taken together, these books could also have been Zzz-snatchers in another sense: they could fill one’s head with the unsettling threat of quiet doubts.  Maybe.  I didn’t quite ruminate on them long enough to let the doubts creep in, though.

What book or books have snatched your sleep?

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet: Sleep

Why I Haven’t Read That Book Yet, Part 3: I Keep Falling Asleep

There are a number of wonderful books which, though highly recommended, I have not finished because I fall asleep every time I try to read them.  Even when I’m not reading in bed, I fall asleep: I curl up in my chair, I melt into the couch, I lie on the floor like a cat.  This probably indicates that I don’t get enough rest at night, but perhaps it also indicates something about my reading material.

kitty sleeps on book

Some might think falling asleep indicates the book is dull.  I think it mostly reflects the reader’s (lack of) wakefulness, blood circulation, and attention span; it’s not necessarily the book’s fault.  Thalia and I discussed the fact that though Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture is beautiful, lucid, and interesting, we conk out after a few pages.  My theory is that the ideas are heavy.  It’s like trying to balance a number of well-cut rocks.  You can follow where the reasoning goes, but you also have to carry where you’ve been with you, as though you were trying to pick up a road as you walk on it.  That’s the heavy bit, keeping all those premises in mind, and it exhausts my brain.

Leisure the Basis of CultureOrthodoxyStudies in WordsFrankenstein

Presumably this is also why I fall asleep reading Orthodoxy and, to my shame, Studies in Words.  Possibly I made my attempts at both books in a severely compromised state, since by all rights I ought to have read and loved them by now.  It’s why I never finished my Intercollegiate Studies Institute Reading (work by Kirk and Burke, oh my) or Frankenstein (which still waits on my bedside table for me to return to it).

What books have you fallen asleep reading?

Off-kilter Analysis: The Princess and the Pea

It has been noted often enough – by me, by friends, by a professor or two forced to suffer my undergraduate papers – that I enjoy the obvious and the literal a good deal more than most people.  Anyone who has known me long enough grows accustomed to it, this tendency of mine to revel and splash about in literality as one might in a shallow pool.  Yet there is always truth to be found in that basic level of things, the level which really should be understood before one attempts climbing any higher or delving any deeper.  Those who too eagerly scramble up to heights they suppose grander, loftier, or more significant may lose their intellectual footing, so to speak, having neglected to take care that their climb be properly grounded on a solid base.

(N.B. that solid bases don’t really have much to do with what follows.)

I wish to revisit a story, read so many times in younger days and in such rapid succession with other stories that I came to accept it without examining it very closely:  The Princess and the Pea.

It is all too easy for interpreters to say “Ah!  This supposed sensitivity is but a joke about how the actual nobility was sensitive to perceived slights and callous toward the plight of commoners!”  or that “Ohh, clearly the fact that she woke black and blue alluded to some manner of rough sexual encounter.”*  Or perhaps they are diverted by the concept of a real princess, and what that signifies, both in the context of Denmark ca. 1835 and in today’s ostensibly democratic society.

But I leave such things aside, for of late I have taken on myself an additional box-spring and mattress.  A friend needed to empty her apartment, and since I saw the potential for using them in future, I carted them off.  Now, until the future arrives, stacking them on my bed frame with the extant box-spring and mattress seems the most space-efficient means of storage.

         My bed, as you see, stands about four feet tall now, such that I cannot sit down on it; instead I must get a knee up or spring or otherwise clamber atop it, taking care not to hit my head on the sloping ceiling.  This adds an element of decisiveness to turning in for the night, and an interesting perspective on this princessy business of mattresses and eiderdown beds.

Leaving the pea aside – though anyone who ruminates on peas for more than a second must think how smushed the thing would get – I cannot let this story premise roll past me any longer.  No, friends, I must peer at it, closely as one might.

First, note how the princess turns up in the rain.  We are given no explanation of whence she came or why she was walking to this particular castle alone in the rain at night (but let me just say “ambulopluviophobia” where that’s concerned).  One would think that the raindrops, falling from such a height as they do, would injure her quite gravely and render this bed business quite unnecessary.

Moreover, note that the queen, who we suppose to be a real queen** and thus to have been a real princess once, must have the same vaunted sensitivity – and yet she moves twenty mattresses (and makes the bed somehow.  Difficult business)!  Does all her royal sensitivity leave once she wears a crown?  I have had a hard enough time (and surely bruised a time or two) moving two mattresses.  She might have given herself a contusion; surely a proper queen has servants on hand for such manual labor!

Sixth and lastly, the bedroom must be quite a grand chamber, for such a bed would tower at least 25 feet high; this implies that the princess must be fearless where heights are concerned, or else generally brave, or else mad, as no one reasonable relishes the thought or enjoys the possibility of falling so far while asleep.  Two box-springs and two mattresses get quite unsteady on their own, and mine are set right beside the wall to boot.  Hopefully there was a ladder or something on hand.

Thirdly, imagine what other exhibits are in this museum.  Either it is a vast space, with curators itching for something, anything, to display there, or else it contains a panoply of hodgepodgey “royal” artifacts.  And to conclude, the people about town must be very in dire straits if any of them would conceive of stealing the Pulverized Pea of Princess Proof.

*I actually read some pieces of analysis on the story – longer than the story itself – expressing these two interpretations.  Gosh, somehow I missed that subtext.
**Unless others read the same edition I read as a child, wherein the queen slept soundly in the Mammoth Bed of Mammothness the next night, despite the fact that the pea hadn’t been moved, thus suggesting that she was not really properly sensitive but in fact a CHARLATAN PRINCESS who had taken advantage of a good, honest prince back in her day.  Takes one to know one, I always say.