Monday, September 18, 2006

Rituals; Reading in Bed; More about Short Stories

I read before I go to sleep every night. It’s part of my bedtime ritual. Even on nights that I’m completely exhausted, I can’t fall asleep unless I have read just a little bit. I read until the words start to blur on the page. Sometimes this happens quickly. Other nights I may read for 30 minutes or more. If I am at a really good part and I push through the sleepiness and keep reading, I’m in trouble, because then it might be hours before I feel sleepy again. Or, I may be able to fall asleep, but I don’t sleep well, and often end up dreaming about the book I was reading.

If it’s bedtime, and I’m about to finish a book, I won’t usually read it, because I like to be awake so that I can process the book’s ending. I’ll save the ending to read during the day when I’m more awake, and I’ll read something else before bed, like a magazine. Likewise, I will often not start a new book just before going to bed if I know that I am sleepy because I’ll just have to start it over again the next night.

Why am I talking about this? Because it’s led me to identify another problem with reading short stories. It’s all the starting and stopping. I don’t like moving on from one story to the next with no break in between. And I don’t like starting a story when I am too tired to appreciate it. It’s like each story is a mini-book and I need to apply the same starting and stopping rituals to them that I apply to full-length novels, or else I don’t enjoy them as much.

In a perfect world I would be able to read one short story a day while wide awake and sitting in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea at hand. But I can’t; many days the only reading time I get is before bed. Maybe I need to look at short stories as something I read occasionally, when the time is right, and read only novels or longer nonfiction before bed.


Anonymous said...

Often the only reading time I get in a day is that time between going to bed and falling asleep. It is a special time! Trouble is, often I am so tired I've forgotten what I read by the time I next open the book.

Becky Holmes said...

Yes! That's exactly my problem. So I end up start and restarting the same short story over and over again.

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