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To Sleep, Perchance To Read

July 17, 2015

I enjoy editorial work. I had a chance to do some recently for The Rumpus.BlankVertSpace.4pixels

My Evenings Reading Alone by K. Thomas Kahn is, like many Rumpus essays, intensely personal. The author tells how his partner’s snores literally drove him into a forgotten world: a world of books, where he becomes reacquainted not only with certain authors, but also with himself. Here are the opening lines:BlankVertSpace.4pixels

One night, out of nowhere, he started snoring: laboringly so, the walls bending away from his exhales, so that even the cat crept off to sleep somewhere else. I lay awake reciting the Rime of the Ancient Mariner backward to no avail; try as I could, I couldn’t map my breathing to his.BlankVertSpace.4pixels

Certain lines conjure up images for me. Combining images can create some interesting results. Consider this passage:BlankVertSpace.4pixels

They fitted him with a CPAP mask… Through the hissing darkness, I would roll over and see a massive shadow with a tentacled snout… I would go out on the balcony and see stars, jutting out my index finger as if I had an audience toward bodies like Lepus or Orionblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

guy on balcony overlooking city Orion in night sky holding lion head many stars constellation cancer crab big dipper

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detail image guy on balcony overlooking city Orion in night sky holding lion head many stars constellation cancer crab big dipper

blank vertical space, 32 pixels high… we somehow succumb to sleep, like a man hanging by his fingers at a cliff’s edge succumbs to the valley below… the plummet into the dark continent a refuge… Drinking from the waters of Letheblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

two men climb ladders jump off stack of sleeping z's dive into waters of oblivion spirits souls slumbering below surface lost in arms Morpheus

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detail image two men climb ladders jump off stack of sleeping z's dive into waters of oblivion spirits souls slumbering below surface lost in arms Morpheus

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highI began sleeping in the spare room…. I slept surrounded by books we’d shipped by freighter, and some nights I imagined—my nights were all fantasies; I had escaped the from the epicenter of snores but I must have known we were living out a metaphor—that I could still smell the water on their spines, long-since sloughed away.blank vertical space, 24 pixels highguy on desert island can't sleep snoring noses circling like sharks ship in distance S.S. Dewy Decimal bringing books to fight insomnia

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detail image guy on desert island can't sleep snoring noses circling like sharks ship in distance S.S. Dewy Decimal bringing books to fight insomnia

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highI began to sleep without him, and instead began to sleep with others: Proust, Mann, Borges, Woolf, Akhmatova, Dickinson… I didn’t know that I would later thank him for giving me the night, or rather the company of night. In Vertigo, W. G. Sebald confesses: “It is thanks to my evening reading alone that I am still more or less sane.”BlankVertSpace.4pixels

The doctors… gave him pills; and when the pills didn’t help him, I started taking them instead… For years, it was the only way I knew how to sleep. I found refuge in the books… my books, forgotten books offering a treasure if only I could read them properly.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

I enjoyed the thought of him transitioning from pills to books, and escaping his partner’s sawing wood.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Guy in bed sleeping mouth wide open sleeping pills turning into books chainsaw handsaw cutting log snoring sheep jumping over book

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highSometimes mistakes don’t jump out at me until after I scan my work. My original pillow was much too small for the man’s head. I had to perform a little digital surgery before proceeding. I also repositioned my signature so it was less intrusive. Definitely a big improvement.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highBlankVertSpace.4pixels
before after compare sleeping man enlarged pillow made wider so looks correct proportions adjusted for better fitBlankVertSpace.4pixelsblank vertical space, 24 pixels high
detail image Guy in bed sleeping mouth wide open sleeping pills turning into books chainsaw handsaw cutting log snoring sheep jumping over bookblank vertical space, 32 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highUltimately the author looks back on the experience with gratitude. He may be awake at night, but he’s with his beloved books. Here’s the last line of the essay:BlankVertSpace.4pixels

There are still some nights when I wonder whom he’s keeping awake now, but I always circle back to the fact that I’m awake now—and I say a quick, quiet thanks, both to him and to the books, and return to fingering the spines.

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Ever been kept awake by someone’s snoring?

Do you like to read going to bed? Any recommendations?

Can you recognize any constellations besides Orion? (Alas, he’s the only one I know.)

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Don’t Write Your Congressman– Draw A Cartoon!

He Never Got To Shoot An Elephant In His Pajamas

Viva La Redhead, But It’s A Sin To Eat A Mocking Birdie
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44 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2015 4:26 PM

    Interesting post! I like to read before I sleep – it takes me to another world and releases me from this one. I love your artwork.


    • July 21, 2015 2:48 PM

      Hi, Jo! Thanks so much for your kind comment and your visit– nice to meet you. I really liked your description of bedtime reading, to wit: “it takes me to another world and releases me from this one.” Beautifully said. To that end, I try to choose something restful– as opposed to another chapter of whatever thriller I might be reading! : )

      Cheers, and thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. July 17, 2015 5:38 PM

    I always read in bed. It’s one of the quickest ways of sending me off to sleep these days. This post and your evocative illustrations make me feel very glad I am not married to a snorer.


    • July 21, 2015 3:08 PM

      Hi, Laura! I had a feeling you were a bedtime reader– as am I. Seems more enjoyable in cold weather. I’m going to invent a device that creates the illusion of winter every night, only without snow or serious cold or other unpleasantness, and then it all dissipates before you wake up. I’ll let you know when it’s finished… : )

      Always a pleasure, hope you’re having a lovely summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. July 18, 2015 1:05 AM

    I’ve used a C-PAP machine for about… wow, has it been 12 years already? Cimmorene snores, and yes, sometimes it’s kept me awake. She claims I still snore a bit even with the C-PAP on.

    She likes to read before bed. I used to– not as much as I did. I haven’t found something suitably boring yet, and I’m a guy that absolutely enjoys periodicals, reference books, and other non-fiction.

    As to constellations, yep, Orion is easy to find, especially with those bright stars that form his belt, yeah? I used to confuse Orion with the Big Dipper all the time, and the Little Dipper is about the only other constellation I can remember.

    Great post, Mark!


    • July 22, 2015 12:31 PM

      Hi Jak, thanks for checking in. I’ve read about sleep apnea from time to time. Sounds like a very vexing problem. Glad to know you’ve been coping with it successfully.

      I’d certainly agree that the choice of bedtime reading material is important. Murder and mayhem aren’t conducive to restful sleep: how are you gonna count sheep if you scare ’em all away?? : )

      Yes, Orion’s belt— that’s the key to finding him. Good thing he was a style-conscious chap! I guess everyone knows the Big and Little Dippers, tho they’re not always easy to find. The outer edge of the Big Dipper always points to Polaris, The North Star. That’s about the only thing I remember from seventh grade Science class– you’re welcome!

      Always good to see you, Jak– cheers!


  4. July 18, 2015 9:15 AM

    Great post! I especially love the one with the guy on the balcony. My husband snores when he gains weight and then stops when he drops it (Its a cycle). I am so used to his snores that I actually stay awake when he is silent. Also, I poke him to make sure he is alright 🙂


    • July 22, 2015 12:42 PM

      Malvika! Speaking of stars suddenly appearing, why there you are… : )

      A correlation between snoring and weight gain– interesting! Does Dr. Oz know about this?? I’ll give him a call, see if I can get you and your husband on his show… : )

      And you lie awake when he’s quiet… ha! Yes, isn’t that always the way? We get used to sounds and only “hear” them when they’re absent. I’ll ask Dr. Oz to check your husband’s bruises, too– sounds like he gets poked a lot, poor chap… : )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. July 18, 2015 1:55 PM

    ‘How coincidental– this post got written when I’ve been going through an enormous time for past few months to realign my sleep back to normal after my cycling collision accident. I messed up my sleeping pattern because I slept during the day to heal for first 2 months..then later going to night, I lost a lot of sleep.

    Yes, moved from sleeping pills to falling more peaceful into the gentle lullaby of sleep. I am seeing a sleep doctor specialist in town, Mark. That’s where I’m at. I have a prescribed regime to sleep deeper and longer.

    Actually reading print books or magazines is better before going to bed. There have been recent medical studies where the blue light from computer screens keeps the brain overly stimulated.

    I’m not kiddin’: Doctor tells me I must be off the computer 4 hrs. before bed time.

    Sleep is so important for health, productivity and creativity.


    • July 22, 2015 1:03 PM

      Hi, Jean! Good to hear from you, and I’m sorry it’s been such a long road back from your accident. Your healing disrupted your sleep pattern, which made you tired, which, of course, disrupted your healing process– talk about a vicious, er, cycle! Well, it sounds like you’re moving toward better sleep, and getting a little better each day, and that’s mighty good news.

      Yes, I’ve read that the light from computer screens can disrupt the sleep cycle. So what’s the last thing I usually do before hitting the sack? Check email one last time. Some idiots never learn… : (

      Here’s wishing you sweet dreams and steady progress down the bike path of recovery!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Margie permalink
    July 19, 2015 12:03 AM

    I wear earplugs and go to bed first. Enough said about the snoring at our house…


    • July 22, 2015 1:08 PM

      What?? The Car Guy is also The Snore Guy?? Sounds like The Car Guy needs a new muffler!! : )

      Great to see you, Margie. Keep those earplugs handy, and thanks for your very funny and good-natured comment. : )


  7. robinkingartist permalink
    July 19, 2015 5:35 PM

    What a joy! You’re SO GOOD at this! Wonderful illustrations…they bring the words to life! I love them all, but my fav is the one with the moon and those giant Z’s and the faces in Lethe. Perfection.

    Have to admit that when I read “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” my mind went straight to the albatross, then to the plates in that book (I’ve got a very, very, very old copy). And “Lethe” brought music to mind, with Handel’s “Leave me loathsome light” from “Semele.” Brilliant post – thank you for taking us on the journey!!!

    My only constellation is the Big Dipper. Maybe it’s the Little Dipper? No idea. I don’t recognize any of the others. 😦 But you’ve made such a memorable Cancer that I think I’ll know it if I see it! Yay!!!!


    • July 23, 2015 10:00 PM

      My dear, dear Robin… thank you!! What a comment… ka-DING!! It’s flown me higher’n a kite, and I dun think I’ll be returning to earth anytime soon. Which is perfect, since I needed a good airing-out anyway… : )

      I’m kinda partial to The Big Dive and The Spooky Faces of Lethe myself. I’m not sure where those faces came from. Some old Twilight Zone or Star Trek episode that got lodged in the ol’ coconut? The collective unconscious— one of those $9 words for the Jung at heart?? Dunno. Seemed right, tho…

      I’m embarrassed to say that I first encountered The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner as a parody in Mad Magazine. No lie. I fear the original suffered by comparison. I took it’s message to heart, however, and to this day, I never order the albatross when I’m in a restaurant– I don’t care how fresh it is… : )

      I’m tremendously impressed that you know your classical music. When I first read your comment, I read that title as “Are You Loathsome Tonight?”– which is what Elvis Presley used to sing when he got dumped by Shelley Fabares. Or was it Ann-Margret??

      I’m glad you liked Cancer The Crab. I’m not sure if he ever really appears in Orion’s vicinity– that may have been a first for him!

      Thank you for being so wonderfully supportive, and so just plain wunnaful!!! : )


      • robinkingartist permalink
        July 24, 2015 1:30 PM

        “Are You Loathsome Tonight?” BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Oooo…”Twilight Zone”-brain! It’s a permanent condition. I share it, too…LOL

        And Mad Magazine!!!!!! LOVE that!!!!! I had a subscription to it for years and years. Don Martin was one of my early heroes. According to this site:
        he did drew the “Ancient Mariner” parody. Of course! You’re so lucky to have seen it!! I wish I had.

        Re the music? No need to be impressed – but I appreciate it since I rarely inspire that! I was a music major in college. Vocal/choral major, piano minor. And even though Handel wrote “Leave Me, Loathsome Light” for a male character, lots of student sing it. So I did, too.

        I’m so happy you did this post!
        It’s stellar.


        • July 26, 2015 9:13 AM

          Blush! My memory has been playin’ tricks on me– so wot else is new, eh?? I love Don Martin’s stuff, but his unique style didn’t jibe with what I was remembering. My memory failed me, but Google did not. After several searches, I discovered it wasn’t Mariner I was thinking of– it was Longfellow’s Wreck Of The Hesperus!! Mad did a parody of that way back in 1954, illustrated by the amazing and incomparable Wally Wood. You can read the whole thing here.

          You were a music major– yes, I knew that!! (My memory was out to lunch at the hotdog stand again.) Vocal/choral major, and piano minor– the latter being a piano that’s too young to buy beer. So you’re not just a great artist, but a musician, too– impressive fortissimo! Holy cow, take a bow, do it now!!!

          Stellar– constellations– now there’s a pun that makes me see stars!! Thanks a heap, Robin, and I think we finally got your account and avatar straightened out!! : )


  8. July 19, 2015 9:14 PM

    Mark … That poor man. I love your illustrations – the books he’s consuming, the sheep jumping over the book, and the illustrations where he’s out admiring the constellations. Typically witty, brilliant you.

    You mentioned one where you re-positioned your signature, but I didn’t see it at all.


    • July 24, 2015 1:13 PM

      Hi, Judy! Many thanks for those kind and supportive words. Yes, quite an ordeal for the author. And even though it was a happy ending (I think!), I found myself wondering: if he’s reading all night, when does he sleep?? But I mustn’t think about it too much– it might keep me awake!! : )

      Sorry– that repositioned signature was hard to see. I moved it to the right of the pillow, so it’s in deep shadow. You can just make out the “ARM” in the detail image,– if you squint real hard, that is… : )

      Always a pleasure to see you, my friend!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. July 20, 2015 1:31 PM

    All brilliant, my dear Mark – but then I expect nothing less than genius from such a talented man! I was going to start writing all the details I loved about each one but it would take me many days and wordpress would ultimately sue me for taking up all their space, so let me just say a big THANK YOU!!!!!! 🙂


    • July 28, 2015 12:26 PM

      My dear Marina–!! Your comment has me blushing so furiously, I’m afraid I may be contributing to global warming!! A fine way for a genius to behave, I must say… : )

      As for your esteemed self, you have contributed to heart-warming: the heart in question being my own overheated aorta!! The idea that you might crash the WordPress servers by writing too much praise made me roar with laughter– and shed a happy tear… SPLAT!! Thank you for your kind and thoroughly delightful comment!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 3, 2015 5:11 PM

        You could never contribute anything negative to this world my dear genius – only good. ONLY GOOD! 🙂


        • August 6, 2015 3:28 PM

          Blush, blush, and more blush!! Dear me, I’m sure my rosy cheeks can be seen for miles. Maybe I can have a second career as a lighthouse… : )

          Liked by 1 person

        • August 9, 2015 4:40 AM

          You mean …tomato cheeks!!!! Oh, Lord, you didn’t eat tomatoes did you?!!!! 😉
          ps I am not finished with the ‘tomato’ post… that’s a threat! Expect a comment soon! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  10. July 21, 2015 5:54 PM



    • July 28, 2015 12:47 PM

      Hi, Nel. Many thanks for your comment, do forgive this late reply. My Spanish is very poor, so I ran your comment thru Google Translate. Here’s the result, which I’ve edited slightly:

      Your thinking creates symbols and memories for me as one who writes romantic poetry. I especially liked the parts where you mention specific authors and the constellations found in the vastness of the universe. Thanks, Mark.

      You’re very welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and found it helpful. Thank you for your visit and kind comment. I wish you all the best with your writing! : )

      Hola, Nel. Muchas gracias por tu comentario, no perdonan esta última contestación. Mi español es muy pobre, así que corrió su comentario a través de Google Translate. Aquí está el resultado, que he editado un poco:

      Su pensamiento crea símbolos y recuerdos para mí como alguien que escribe poesía romántica. Me gustó especialmente las partes en las que usted menciona autores específicos y las constelaciones que se encuentran en la inmensidad del universo. Gracias, Marcos.

      Eres muy bienvenido! Estoy tan contenta de que haya disfrutado el puesto y ha encontrado útil. Gracias por su visita y amable comentario. Le deseo todo lo mejor con su escritura! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. July 26, 2015 4:29 PM

    wow…this just blew my mind! it´s a story to night readers! and I’m just thinking… that would be a big source of stories “stories for night readers” …just saying…


    • July 28, 2015 1:03 PM

      Hi, Victoria! Thank you for your kind and enthusiastic comment. I’m always very pleased when someone really enjoys a post. I have a feeling you might be a night reader yourself– just a hunch! : )

      I wasn’t quite clear on the last part of your comment. Were you saying that someone should publish a collection of stories aimed specifically at night readers? That there might be a lot of people who would welcome such a collection? Sounds like a great idea to me. Of course, we’d probably need two such collections: one for people who just want to drift off to sleep, and the other for people who want to stay up all night, reading! : )

      Thanks again for stopping by!

      Hola, Victoria! Gracias por su amable comentario y entusiasta ti. Siempre estoy muy contento cuando alguien realmente disfruta de un poste. Tengo la sensación de que podría ser un lector de la noche yourself– sólo una corazonada! 🙂

      Yo no estaba muy claro en la última parte de su comentario. ¿Estabas diciendo que alguien debería publicar una colección de historias dirigidas específicamente a los lectores de la noche? Eso podría haber un montón de gente que daría la bienvenida a una de tales colecciones? Suena como una gran idea para mí. Por supuesto, nos gustaría probablemente necesitamos dos de estas colecciones: una para las personas que sólo quieren quedarse dormido, y el otro para las personas que quieren permanecer despierto toda la noche, la lectura! : )

      Gracias de nuevo por pasar por aquí!


  12. Andrade Watts, Inc. permalink
    July 30, 2015 2:26 PM

    Love the illustrations. Reading at night always help me sleep better. Nice post:)


    • July 30, 2015 5:08 PM

      Thank you very much! And reading nice comments like this helps me sleep better. In fact, I feel myself nodding off as I type… : )

      Just being silly. My sincere thanks for your visit and kind comment! : )


  13. August 3, 2015 3:48 PM

    First post I discover on your blog, already love it
    The way you illustrated book lines made me rush through the written part to get to the image, I like how you interpretated them.


    • August 6, 2015 3:13 PM

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment. You are most kind. Do forgive my late response here, I’ve been busy on a project. When someone hurries through my words to get to my illustrations, I’m flattered and delighted. It tells me I must be on the right path! : )

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. Thanks again for your visit and your kind words!

      Merci beaucoup pour votre belle commentaire. Vous êtes très aimable. Ne pardonnez ma réponse tardive ici, je l’ai été occupé sur un projet. Lorsque quelqu’un se précipite à travers mes mots pour arriver à mes illustrations, je suis flatté et ravi. Il me dit que je dois être sur la bonne voie! 🙂

      Je suis tellement heureux que vous avez apprécié le poste. Merci encore pour votre visite et vos aimables paroles!


      • August 6, 2015 3:47 PM

        Don’t thank me, would it be for a post or kindness, I didn’t do it for a thanks, just because if I don’t say to the author of fantastic work that he did a fantastic work, it’ll stay on my mind. Can’t wait to see this new project!
        Thanks for the effort in french, it really touches me that you thought about answering in my first language too!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. August 4, 2015 10:00 AM

    Great work!


    • August 6, 2015 3:49 PM

      Thank you very much, sir, and I’m happy to return the compliment. Your own posts are invariably well-written, insightful, and provide much food for thought. I salute you in the very best sense of the word. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. August 17, 2015 12:20 AM

    There are nice picture! Wish you work better

    Liked by 1 person

  16. August 18, 2015 4:26 AM

    my name is Daniel from Kenya
    and let me say that your work is breath taking
    the pictures are cool and the English language has been taken into another level. am taking time to digest.
    The grammar is impeccable
    The word of art is amazing

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 18, 2015 9:38 AM

      And I had to take some time to digest your very flattering comment, Daniel. Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post! : )



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