Earlier in the year I wrote of the things I would like to accomplish this year. Like most resolutions, some are on the way to fulfillment while others have slipped to the wayside; either through disinterest or by circumstances. One resolution that is still being pursued is number six on my 01.01.10 list, which was to begin working my way through the Everyman's Library "Essential 100". I completed Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and have begun Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I must admit that the going's on of the Dashwood women has been placed on hold to read a 1975 edition of Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney.
What does this have to do with a nightstand? Well, in addition to bookcases, coffee tables, and in some cases, corners of rooms, nightstands are a place to find books. My nightstand currently includes: the Peter and the Starcatchers quartet, the two volumes of the Kingdom Keepers, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and P.L. Travers Mary Poppins.
Thinking of books conjures up a lot of memories. I think of family vacations spent on the beach with my mom and dad reading while my sister and I played on the beach or jumped waves in the Gulf. I remember how books offered an escape that allowed me to get away from whatever it was I was going through at the moment. They were also the portal to people and the course of history that I want to understand, or at the very least be familiar with.
And in a odd way, perhaps, a nightstand reminds me of something I once read in Melvyn Bragg's, Richard Burton: A Life. Burton has long been one of my favorite actors. In my opinion, he was a powerful screen presence hampered by inconsistent choices of film projects to be involved with. Yet, regardless of the quality of the final product, the voice was always superb. It was, and perhaps still is, one of the great voices of the 20th century. Burton was also a ferocious reader. He once said, "Home is where the books are." When travelling, part of his luggage was one suitcase full of books. He was never without them.
Richard Burton died at his home in Celigny, Switzerland on August 5, 1984. He was 58 years old. Bragg writes, "When the guests had gone from that funeral at Celigny and Sally had her first few hours of quiet and her first intimation of the encroaching loneliness, she began to tidy up. On Richard's beside table, she came across his scribble pad. He used a red pen to write on it, often waking in the middle of the night to jot down a thought. These lines had been jotted down on that last night.
"The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.
"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...
"Our revels now are ended...
"Cap a pi...
"The last line is unfinished.
"The blood vessels burst and flooded into the brain and there were no more words."
Thank you for your indulgence. Books play an important part in my life and they may do the same in yours. I will have more to say about books in the weeks and months to come. But for now, I wanted to share a little more of my world and reflect just a moment on a life that had some amount of influence on me.
More to follow...
Richard Burton: A Life, Melvyn Bragg, Little Brown, 1988, pg. 486-487