In Bed with Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers

“I’m going to bed,” really means, “I’m going to lie in bed and … write.” 

Brent L. Kendrick (aka “The Wired Researcher”)

Chances are good that you did a double take when you saw the title of today’s post. You may have exclaimed, “No way! I’ve read this already.”

Nope. You haven’t. If the title seems familiar, you’re probably thinking of “Spaces and Habits of Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers.” But don’t worry. I’ve changed things up: this post has a brand-new set of linen sheets.

And if you aren’t thinking that you’ve read this post before, you are probably asking yourself, “What’s going on with the Good Professor’s seeming propensity for being in bed?”

Excellent question! I won’t try to pull the sheets over your eyes. It’s simple. “In Bed” makes the title catchy. It certainly makes me lie down and take notice. You’ll take notice, too, when I tell you that, on average, we spend 33 years of our life in bed: 26 years, sleeping; 7 years, trying to doze off.

If the “In Bed” part didn’t grab your attention, “with writers” surely did!

And I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking right now. Come on. Fess up. You’re wondering what they’re doing in bed. And now you’ve got me wondering, too. I’ll be right back.

Thanks for your patience. I had to do a little research. If you were wondering whether they were having…you know...sex, you won’t be impressed by the answer that I just discovered. On average, having…you know…takes up only about one third of a year (117 days) in the course of our entire life. Ironically, people think about having…you know...nearly 19 times a day. I guess we spend far more time thinking about having…you know…than we do enjoying…having you know.

Sadly, I suspect that the 117 days of romance is substantially lower with writers, particularly those who write in bed. I doubt that they would want to be interrupted with their word play. Maybe that’s why William Byrd II (Colonial Virginia aristocrat and man of letters; member of the Governor’s Council; and founder of Richmond, VA) had a fondness for romantic interludes on the billiard table. “He what?” someone gasped in disbelief. Yep. I tease you not. For your own in-bed reading, check out The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover (1709-1712). The content of his diary remained a secret until the 1940s when it was decoded. Now I know that I have whetted your literary appetite. Here, let me tease you more with an excerpt from his diary:

“in the afternoon my wife and I had a little quarrel which I reconciled with a flourish. It is to be observed that the flourish was on the billiard table.”

Now you know why he wrote his diary in code. Check it out, but not now. Or, if you must, please come back and finish this post.

But let’s get our writers back in bed where we found them to begin with.

For what it’s worth, I was in bed already, and I intend to stay there, smackdab in the middle. After all, it’s my bed, and in bed is where I write my blog posts. But I’m the not-so-famous writer mentioned in the title, so enough about me. Let’s snuggle up with some famous writers who wrote in bed, and, for the time being they can join me in mine.

Surprisingly, not many writers actually write in bed. That suits me just fine. Although my bed is big–fit for a queen–I still need to be able to pull up the sheets and get comfy.

Little chance of my doing that any time soon. Long-legged Mark Twain has jumped in already. What a bed hog: writing and smoking at the same time. He’s got some nerve! “Just try it in bed sometime. I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away. Thinking is easy work, and there isn’t much labor in moving your fingers sufficiently to get the words down” (New York Times, “How Mark Twain Writes in Bed,” April 12, 1902).

Joining Twain is Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence. (Well, maybe, innocent, but, after all, she is in bed with Twain even if I am the one who put the two side by side.) Wharton liked to write in bed because it freed her from wearing her corset, thereby liberating her thoughts. Now, at least, we all know where she kept her mind.

And I suppose we have to invite Truman Capote to hop in. He’s often quoted as saying: “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy.”

On the other side of the bed–to my right–let’s put some European writers. For bed-balance, we’ll add three only, arranged in the same gender order as the Americans: Boy. Girl. Boy.

To my right, William Wordsworth. He wrote his poems in bed in complete darkness, and, if he lost a sheet of paper in bed, he started over. It was easier than rummaging around under the sheets. Thank God for small mercies.

On his right is Dame Edith Sitwell who slept in a coffin from time to time. Without a doubt, she’ll enjoy being in bed for a change, especially since she once commented, “All women should have a day a week in bed.” That’s all fine and dandy as long as they’re not in my bed.

To Sitwell’s right is Marcel Proust, right on the edge of the bed. Writing in bed was not a quirk for him. It was a requirement. Age and illness forced him to stay in bed, and it was in bed where he completed Remembrance of Things Past as well as In Search of Lost Time. On the edge of the bed seemed perfect so that he could get in and out with greater ease.

OMG! I just heard a loud thud. Did you? Let me take a look. Sure enough. The not-so-famous American writer who thought up these shenanigans in the first place is at it again. He has pushed the European writers right out of the bed onto the floor.

Oh, no. I just heard another thud, though not quite as loud. Let me lean across the bed and have a look-see. As I live and breathe! Capote, Wharton, and Twain are all piled up on the Oriental rug. Twain is still smoking his pipe. Wharton is suddenly looking for her corset. And Capote is leaning back, still smoking his cigarette. Maybe he and Twain can blow smoke at one another while Wharton laces up her corset.

Well, at least the Americans landed softly. I really meant no harm, but I had no choice other than to kick the three of them out, too. Seven in my bed was six too many.

I don’t know about you, but it’s perfectly clear to me that writers–whether famous or not-so-famous–make strange bedfellows.

2 thoughts on “In Bed with Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers

  1. I think you have room for one more. I’ve heard that Stephen Crane wrote in bed for a while while recovering from illness. He said he needed to keep his mind active, and apparently that was the only way to do that. I wonder what your house guests would say about him joining.

    Like

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