Bedside table: readers’ choice of books

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Cover courtesy of Penguin Random House

“The writing in which I have been immersed for a few weeks is that of the French author Annie Ernaux. On my bedside table, I have a stack of his autobiographical books. Some that I own and read years ago, but others that I was able to borrow. I have been a staunch patron of the Patten Free Library here in Bath for years, but it was only after the deprivations of the pandemic that I looted an even deeper treasure, the Maine Cat System, which readers to order books from libraries. throughout the state, including those in universities.

“Ernaux, now 80, has undermined the phases of her life in more than 20 slender and beautifully polished volumes since the 1970s. Her prolific work, well known in Europe, is distinguished by the fact that her writing will describe often an incident or a period of time with exquisite detail as if it had happened yesterday; for example, in the book ‘A Girl’s Story’, her first sexual experience. A few paragraphs later, she takes a step back to reflect, this time in the person of an older and more experienced woman – herself as she writes.

“These short autobiographies have become an impromptu tutorial as I mull over my own dissertation project that spans a series of years that began in the 1970s and ended two decades later. Although oblique on first reading, the closing lines of “A Girl’s Story” provided me with powerful clarity – a way to think about and reimagine my personal story:

“Among my papers, I found a kind of intent note:
Explore the chasm between the staggering reality of things that happen, to
at the time they occur, and, years later, the strange unreality in which
things that happened are wrapped up.

“Reading Ernaux’s series of memoirs and the ‘strange unreality’ of the sense of stop-start time in which we currently live have become for me good companions, a fertile ground for ideas and language. I can’t wait to find out what is germinating… ”- SUSAN T. LANDRY, Bath-based writer, memorialist and poet


Mainers, please drop us a line to tell us about the book on your nightstand right now. In a few sentences, describe the book and don’t forget to tell us what attracted you to it. With the pandemic’s path uncertain again, we especially want to hear what you read in these turbulent times and why. Send your selection to [email protected], and we can use it as a future bedside table.



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