Of Books and Bathrooms

Did you know the White House has 132 rooms? When I heard that I veered off into an orgy of home decorating daydreams. What would I do with oodles of extra rooms? After a Christmas season with visiting grandchildren in sleeping bags on the floor, having a few additional bedrooms is appealling. But since I’m giving my imagination free rein I know the first new room would have to become a library.


I can picture it clearly: walls lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases accessed by a rolling ladder, a large fireplace fronted by cream-coloured leather recliners and a low circular coffee table to hold my day’s selection of books and a carafe of coffee. There will be a bank of french doors opening to my daytime view of the woods, with luxurious velvet draperies to cozy the mood in the evenings. Of course there won’t be a clock — time restraints don’t exist in my daydream. It will be a generous room with a music nook for the grand piano and cupboards to discreetly contain my mess of music.


It’s a grand dream, but as I think more about those 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms on six levels with eight staircases and three elevators, a nightmare begins to emerge. I could easily get lost trying to find a bathroom at 2:00 a.m.!


So Many Books, So Little Time

“So many books, so little time.”  If you Google this phrase you’ll come up with 164,000 results — everything from Sara Nelson’s book documenting a year of her passionate reading, to articles on the subject, and even a forum of the same name on the Indigo/Chapters site debating about what ten books you might take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island.


For me, the words stand alone, not as a title for anything. They emerge from my mouth sounding more like a moan, a wail, expressing my frustration that there are more books that I want to read than there are hours left in my life. (And I’m planning for a lot of those!)


Author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio was announced yesterday as the 2008 Nobel Prize winner in Literature. Acclaimed as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization,” he is one of France’s best-known contemporary writers, but I haven’t read any of his works.


Selecting what to read — what’s worthy of my time — is always a dilemma. So I could relate to a recent blog entry by literary agent Jessica Faust.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I somehow had the impression that as a recent college grad, or just an intelligent woman, I should be reading more intelligent books (whatever that means). In other words, I should be catching up on the classics I missed out on as a journalism major or reading only books that incited great philosophical discussions… It took me a long time to accept and advertise the fact that I was a commercial fiction girl… I think all readers evolve and grow over time and eventually find their niche. I hear often from those who read only fantasy as young people and now have grown to read different kinds of fiction, and I hear from others who still can’t stomach commercial fiction but love nothing more than to cuddle into a long classic. Some typically enjoy longer literary works, but when life is tough or getting them down, they will pull out a favorite romance or thriller. What we read and when we’re reading it can say a lot about who we are in that time of our life, just like the music we listen to and the movies we watch.”


I wonder what my reading choices say about me. On my virtual coffeetable at present: Fiction — “Leota’s Garden” by Francine Rivers, “Carlyle’s House” by Virginia Woolf, “Light on Snow” by Anita Shreve and Kirsty Scott’s “Between You & Me”. Non-fiction: Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper”, Des Kennedy’s “Crazy About Gardening”, and John Fischer’s “Be Thou My Vision” (daily meditation).


Reading vies with writing for possession of my time. No matter how much I spend on either, it’s never enough! I need to live to be 120!