On Picking Up Where You Left Off

I sat down, opened my book nearby, and picked up where I left off last. Libraries and mirrors. Next: a cadre of obese men, revolutionaries. Lastly: the Judge, endless desert, sand and bloodshed. Rarely do I find myself picking up right where I left off in a book, but in a place.

There’s a certain singular notion to “What are you reading?” that I’ve abandoned. My answer? “Depends on where I’m sitting.”

I think it was borne of sheer indolence, the habit. I’d left Borges’s Collected Fictions by my bedside, where the short doses of gaúchos, libraries, and labyrinths offered comfort that ceded to philosophical phantasmagoria and slumber.  It hasn’t made it back to my library in a long while, and I think it’s grown to enjoy the nightstand company of my two Bibles (mine and my wife’s — she loses hers) and the Steve Jobs biography by Isaacson.

After one ludicrous workday, I retreated to the ensconce of my wingback chair downstairs and embarked on a new voyage: Peter Carey’s The Fat Man in History. I hadn’t yet had my fill of Borges, but I couldn’t be bothered to detour back to my nightstand and uproot the Argentine’s works. Carey’s edition was (and is) more portable. In two evenings, I churned through the first story-and-a-half. And that was enough: the book took root downstairs as my not-quite-ready-for-bedtime story collection.

In between sitting for work, sitting for leisure, and sitting in bed, I had to travel on business for the first time in ages. Couldn’t dislodge Borges, no. And Carey was just getting settled on the end-table. I was flying west, so I figured I could start a new with a wholesome Western tale: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. That made for some vivid reading to offset the soporific spells of air travel. I’d close my eyes, remember to adjust my seat to the upright position, and feel my scalp to make sure it was still attached to my head.

The cycle continues. I did end up sitting in bed again, yearning to discover the fate of the kid and Glanton the scalper. Instead, I found him in a Garden of Forking Paths. One of which led to a body lottery in a wingback chair. The other, to another flight, where I revisited those Western sands, strewn with blood and wonder.