I usually have at least two books going: one for whenever and one for when I’m in bed. You’ve got to choose the bed books carefully, however–too exciting and you’ll be up all night, too slow and you’ll never finish. Right now, my bed book is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and it’s pretty much perfect. One of the most amazing things about it is the rhythm. It’s not often I read novels in which the rhythm of the sentences actually stands out over other syntactical or grammatical elements.
Here’s the first sentence: “I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.”
The line has its own dramatic arc: it starts out with a slow, steady build, then, with the aid of a series of pauses and the repetition of “said” achieves something like a climax–in both form and content–which then resolves into a perfect dénouement.
There are a couple directions I could go with this post… but instead of choosing I’ll have it both ways. First of all, do other people make decisions about what to read at night using criteria similar to mine? If so, what do you recommend? What are good bed books? And secondly, are there any other books you can think of written with such rhythmically forward prose?