In the cover for this year’s Fiction Issue, Bruce Eric Kaplan presents a familiar sight: the night-table tower, which always seems to exist on the brink of collapse. Kaplan, who’s been contributing to the magazine for more than fifteen years, recently talked with us about his bedside reading.
What does your own night table look like?
Just like in the picture. So does my wife’s. That’s how I got the idea. (Maybe the piles in the drawing are very slightly exaggerated.)
We live in the age of Marie Kondo. Do you ever prune the pile?
Yes. I am constantly buying books, so I am constantly pruning. I love giving away books after reading them, mostly to friends who I think would like them. Of course, I buy some books that no one else I know might like; those I put on bookshelves. Sadly, three years ago I was overcome by the books I had sitting on shelves and felt I needed to give them to charity. I got rid of hundreds and hundreds of books. At least once a month now, I want to revisit one of those, so I end up taking the book out of the library.
Are you a fan of reading before bed?
Yes, yes, yes. Isn’t everyone? Oh, I suppose some people watch TV. I find that odd. There was a scene in a TV show I saw a long time ago where the main character is somewhere without books at bedtime, so he picks up a container of toothpaste and reads that. I can’t remember what it was. It feels like it was something Felix Unger would do in “The Odd Couple.”
What do you like to read?
It changes. Right now, I have been enjoying memoirs of all shapes and sizes. For the most part, they take you away from this time, which is so dreadful. But, even before this time, I loved memoirs because, when well done, it’s like the most interesting person in the world is talking to you, telling you the story of their life, and giving you all their thoughts on the most personal matters.
Kaplan’s memoir envisions a child’s view of the world.
Courtesy of Bruce Eric Kaplan and Penguin Press.
Did any memoirs inspire your own, “I Was a Child”?
Actually, no. That may be an odd answer, but I wanted to write a memoir that was simply about my experience, without creating any narratives as to who I was, or who my parents were. The book is very sensual in that it is about what I saw, what I read—what it was actually like to be me at that age, in that period of time, in that place. I don’t know other memoirs like that. That being said, there are certain memoirs I read over and over again, so obviously they may have had an impact on mine. I love any and all autobiographical essays by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron; “Manhattan, When I Was Young,” by Mary Cantwell; “Underfoot in Show Business,” by Helene Hanff; “Original Story By,” by Arthur Laurents; “Act One,” by Moss Hart. I could go on and on.
For more Fiction Issue covers, see below:
“Crashing the Gate,” by Daniel Clowes
“The Finish Line,” by R. Kikuo Johnson
“Enchanted Forest,” by Christoph Niemann