I recently broke up with Cass Sunstein, my intentions unbeknown to him.
I just didn’t have enough time to devote to our relationship, and well, frankly, things had gotten stale to the point where I wondered if there would be a way for me to get past this “relationship hump.” I was at that time being courted pretty heavily by someone else. And then we got back together and things have been marvelous ever since. We are really taking our time in our relationship. Before him, I spent a lot of time with Flaubert and a woman named Emma. Before them, well, I forget now because I sleep with a lot of characters. Before you shake your head in an agreeable, “yeah, I’m not surprised,” let me clarify. I’m talking about what I refer to as a “bed book,” and when I say that Cass and I broke up, well, I mean he was a little too intense for the bedroom, so I cast him off as a “bus book”.
I have a lot of friends that just don’t read in bed, or, they read in bed to fall asleep. I read in bed because that’s typically the only time I have a few consecutive moments to myself where I can actually engross in reading material that is complex. Not that Madame Bovary is complex, but, having a background in literature and cultural studies, I’ve been trained to extract complexity where it sometimes does not exist, I mean, that is how literary criticism was born. And, let’s face it, even if Madame Bovary isn’t that complex and I wasn’t analyzing her female agency for the time in life as explained by a male author who self-proclaimed his love of prostitution, “and for itself, too, quite apart from its carnal aspects,” that book is a page turner, and I wanted to spend some time with Emma.
By my definition, a bed book is a book that you want to read for longer stretches of time, therefore “naturally” the book can be more complex in nature, hence I give you Cass Sunstein’s FDR’s Second Bill of Rights and Why We Need Them More Than Ever, the book that was the cause of our original undoing. Another example of a good bed book for me is anything by V.S. Naipaul, and I say that having only read three of his novels, but I’m pretty confident in this assertion. However, Naipaul is also a great example of a bus book. And, that leads me to provide another element of makes a good bed book: well, it’s a book where you have to remember a lot of things—characters, sequences of events, or, in the case of Sunstein, a lot of dates, a lot of cases that shaped the Supreme Court, a lot of politicians and pundits that had a lot to say about policy and the fabric of America as it relates to the Great Depression, the economy, success and failure and then also how FDR internalized these successes and failures to create a rhetorical shift in our nation’s perceptions perhaps never before seen in our country because of the alignment of a few things including our Supreme Court, the Justices residing during FDR’s administration and the Great Depression.
But, unfortunately, when I would bring Cass on the bus with me, things got bad real fast: most of the times I couldn’t take notes of the numerous failures and successes of FDR because it’s hard to stand on a crowded bus headed toward Oakland balance at a minimum three bags, a cup of coffee (that may or may not have a lid on it) and write notes…and I think my bus mates were a bit tired of me asking them to take dictation, or at the very least, hold my coffee while I wrote. So, out of necessity, out of love, I decided to bring Cass back into bed with me, and we have never looked back. In fact, it’s been months now…of note taking and reading and I have oft thought to myself, well, this relationship will never end.