Book Lovers Never Go to Bed Alone

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve always liked that quote, ever since I first saw it, probably printed on a nightshirt in a novelty gift catalog next to coasters emblazoned with “it’s five o’clock somewhere” and slippers with cat whiskers on them. “So many books, so little time” is another favorite. They’re both true, and the above is just a little bit scandalous. I often share my sleeping space with many bound bed partners…ummmm, too much double entendre, maybe? Bringing it back…I’m always reading, even more regularly now that I work at a library. If I had a nightstand that held more than just my lamp, the books would probably reside there. But, it’s just as easy to slide the current tome over to the side and curl up at night when I get sleepy.
I present my current pile: stackofbooks

I found the topmost book at a massive used bookstore in Birmingham, 2nd and Charles, where I’ve also made some money by selling books. I used to be very attached to my books. Since moving back home and being surrounded by books from childhood through high school and college, I have started to realize I can let some go. Especially if I can turn them into new books or, even better, lunch.
     Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: the Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes struck me first with its cover, the evocative design and silky, matte feel to the paper. The stories inside use language and description in a way that I envy, at turns humorous and wistful, always conjuring up a specific circumstance with seeming ease. Each short story, and some that might be called short short stories, invite the reader into the lives of ordinary people during World War II. The author introduces you to characters and their concerns and shortcomings, drawing them so realistically that you want to read more. What I like about Panter-Downes’ style is that it is spare yet full at the same time. Not a word is wasted and her turns of phrase encapsulate emotion without overdressing it. “The Hunger of Miss Burton” gets to the heart of needs and wants in the lean and uncertain wartime, a time that I feel I can relate to through the author’s imagery. She describes a feeling that we all have known, even just during our drive home after work or because we overslept and skipped breakfast. Knowing that food is being rationed for her character makes it more poignant.

“Ever since food began to get a bit tight, Miss Burton had carried a wolf around with her under the neat waistband of her tweed skirt. Sometimes she felt that it wasn’t one wolf only. It was a whole wolf pack cutting up in the vacuum at the back of her grey herringbone. Before the war, she couldn’t remember thinking much about food, but now she thought about it constantly. She thought of thick steaks sitting on beds of fried onions, of cakes topped with a Mont Blanc of whipped cream, of black cherry jam on hot, flaky croissants. Now and then she even dreamed about them, as in the old days she used to dream about love. No more erotic visions of unknown or (even more embarrassing) known males flitted disturbingly through Miss Burton’s slumbers. Instead, they were punctuated with good blowouts of dream food which never had any taste, which melted tantalisingly into the slow return of the chilly room and the school bell clamorously ringing.”

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