No, I don’t mean reading while sleeping – although if I could do that, my problems would be solved. With two young sons waking up at staggered intervals throughout the night (who then wake up the cats, but that’s another story), I often find myself feeling too sleepy to read. Of course, with constant deadlines, putting the book aside for another day isn’t always an option. Sometimes I feel like I’m in college again: I was once foolish enough (or brave enough or show-offy enough) to register for both The American Novel and The Victorian Novel in the same semester, forcing me to read Moby-Dick and Our Mutual Friend simultaneously. (Strange that I still liked those novels….)
Right now I’m reading William Brodrick’s The Gardens of the Dead in fits and starts, stealing time at lunch and on the train, and of course reading until my eyes droop at night. I loved his first novel, The 6th Lamentation, and this one is probably better. A stately pace, subtly shaded moral inquisitions, and a complex plot make this all the more challenging for a sleep-deprived reviewer, but it’s a testament to Brodrick’s talent that he can hold my attention even when I can barely hold my eyes open. There are many ways I can tell a book is excellent, such as when it’s not the kind of book I would have chosen for myself but I am unable to put it down anyway. A book that keeps me awake when I’m dead tired is another. In theory it would be impossible to fall asleep while reading anything but, though the spirit is willing, the flesh is often weak.
In fact, if I did have a problem falling asleep when presented with the opportunity for doing so, I can think of a couple of titles that would make nice sleeping pills. Finnegan’s Wake seems too obvious, and yet…
riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war: nor had topsawyer’s rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens County’s gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time: nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauftauf thuartpeatrick: not yet, though venissoon after, had a kidscad buttended a bland old isaac: not yet, though all’s fair in vanessy, were sosie sesthers wroth with twone nathandjoe. Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.