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Books: The joys of lying down

  • Just because one slouches doesn’t make one a slouch. Illustrates BOOKS-RECLINE (category e), by Ruth Graham (c) 2013, Slate. Moved Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Illustration by Frederik Peeters.)

    Just because one slouches doesn’t make one a slouch. Illustrates BOOKS-RECLINE (category e), by Ruth Graham (c) 2013, Slate. Moved Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Illustration by Frederik Peeters.)

  •  the art of lying down by Bernd Brunner (176 pages, $19.95)

    the art of lying down by Bernd Brunner (176 pages, $19.95)

  • Just because one slouches doesn’t make one a slouch. Illustrates BOOKS-RECLINE (category e), by Ruth Graham (c) 2013, Slate. Moved Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Illustration by Frederik Peeters.)
  •  the art of lying down by Bernd Brunner (176 pages, $19.95)

The first thing everyone tells you when you start to work from home is that you have to pretend you still have a normal office job. “Shower first thing in the morning,” they say. “Put on makeup, change out of your pajamas, and sit at a desk.” Over and over, fellow work-from-homers tell me about how they “just can’t get motivated” unless they’re wearing a crisp button-down shirt and sitting up ramrod straight. A Vogue contributing editor recently included a pair of $795 mules on her list of home-office must-haves.

Are these people lying, or are they crazy? I’m writing this book review slumped down in bed at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, and I’m loving it. I often spend entire mornings this way, especially during winter, and my productivity is just fine. In fact, because I don’t tie up my best thinking hours primping and getting resettled, I’d venture to say that I actually work more efficiently lying down.

All of this puts me in a receptive frame of mind to read The Art of Lying Down, an idiosyncratic new examination of the one-third of life – or more! – we spend recumbent. Lying down, German author Bernd Brunner writes, “spans the human condition, from complete passivity to the most passionate of activities.” (The book was translated by Lori Lantz.) It’s the position in which “we sleep and dream, make love, contemplate, give ourselves over to wistful moods, daydream, and suffer.” Almost every day begins and ends in a bed, and so does almost every human life.

If Brunner has a big idea, it’s that lying down is due for a revival in the Western world. The book begins with reassurance: “If you’re lying down right now, there’s no need to defend yourself.” By the end, Brunner is optimistically declaring that “the age of the New Horizontal has arrived.”

Well, perhaps. I’m not sure there’s much evidence for this, but Brunner at least takes an extremely enjoyable path to get there. Over the course of 31 brief chapters, he meanders from topic to topic, as minds do when daydreaming. In a quick 167 pages, he covers hypnosis, gravity, drugs, bedbugs, the psychology of various sleep positions, feng shui, Egyptian mummies, the effect of climate on sleep, and La-Z-Boy recliners. If that sounds exhausting, it’s not, but why not go ahead and take a nap anyway?

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