Two days ago I woke up with a sore neck, shoulder, and back. Exercise didn’t help, and my only escape from pain was a David Lodge novel. Today I fumed and fussed, wondering if I’d get over this absurd non-sports injury. After looking up sore necks on the internet, I concluded the cause was “reading in bed.” Yes, that is listed as one of the habits that lead to my new tri-pain. And here’s something specific I attribute it to: holding up an 800-page book while I lounge on pillows!
On and off this fall, I’ve been reading The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen, reissued last year by Everyman’s Classics. To say it is a big book is an understatement. Years ago I checked out an earlier edition of this book from the library, with an introduction by Angus Wilson rather than John Banville, and made it through 300 pages before I gave up. How can I love Bowen’s novels so much yet be bored by her stories? It’s a conundrum. Some of the stories are brilliant, some of them are too, well, lady-like and somehow distant. Because I love her style, I long to return to her novels. This month I’ve made it through 412 pages of her stories,but I am relieved to have a reason to quit. It’s a reading-in-bed injury, by God!
Reading on an e-reader is the obvious solution for reading in bed, but I can’t read on screens all the time. And so I switched to a 400-page John le Carre novel, which I’m loving but which seems to be a a trifle heavy to hold.
Perhaps I need to give up reading in bed. Sitting in chairs rather than lounging?