Monday, November 09, 2009

Sharing a Bed with Alberto Moravia

Alberto Moravia shares my pillow tonight, in the form of a paperback edition of Boredom, published by the New York Review of Books in 1999.

Having finished Contempt mid-Saturday, I took a one-day hiatus to recover from the perfect devastation I felt at the book's conclusion only to plunge into Boredom...a novel whose dense and suffocating atmosphere rises up from the very first paragraph.

On the floor next to my king-size bed is more Moravia -- The Conformist and The Woman of Rome. The groaning shelves in our dining room bear others of his work, but it is so late that I cannot recall their titles and I am too tired to leave my cozy bed to check.

Over the past few months I burned through Clarice Lispector and before her Junichiro Tanizaki and before him Richard Yates. The most heartbreaking encounter I had was with Oscar Wilde, two winters ago, begun with The Picture of Dorian Gray on a trip to Dublin, concluded on a bitter cold afternoon in New York with the reading of De Profundis. The most ill-fated affair I had was with Elfriede Jelinek, whom I had to ditch in the midst of Lust, begun in good faith after The Piano Teacher shattered me. The most epic authorfest I've ever had was with the novels of Nabokov, read in their entirety over one glorious summer, on the Shortline Bus traveling from my country bungalow to my then-job in Manhattan. The most fun? The works of Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, begun with an avid and conspiratorial reading of A Series of Unfortunate Events with Little Babe and concluded on my own, with his uneven adult works.

This is my preferred way of reading -- an intense and exclusive audience with a writer's entire body of work, best accomplished when the writer has ceased writing, that is to say, when he is dead, though I will make exceptions for exceptional living authors, reading them in real time.

The hour has crept past midnight and it is time to close this instrument of a century that Moravia did not live to see. After all, he is my date tonight and for probably many nights to come. I lay back on my pillow and wait for him to overtake me.

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