Lauren Mechling: A chair of my own

During the week, when everyone else is off at school or the office, an ugly striped chair in the living room has come to be my literary parking spot.
(Anja Matthes/For the Times)

In a perfect world I am flying to a far-flung destination once or even twice a week. Reading on airplanes is, for me, a practically religious experience. Sealed off from life’s aggravations and distractions — by which I mean my phone — I will easily read anything in one greedy gulp. Something happens when I’m up in the air, and I respond to stories with a level of emotion that is so intense it is almost embarrassing. I used to think this made me special, until I saw my husband cry during a transatlantic viewing of “Sex and the City 3.”

Getting the setting at home just right takes a little more work. There are snacks to be eaten, tweets to be favorited, lovely children to be avoided. My family is used to the sight of me on my weekend scouting trips, wandering around with a book in hand, searching for the least chaotic spot (it’s often the bathroom). During the week, when everyone else is off at school or the office, an ugly striped chair in the living room has come to be my literary parking spot. It’s one of a pair, two identical Midcentury Modern seats that my husband found on EBay nearly a decade ago. They aren’t revolting, but they’re certainly not what you’d call fashionable. Their saturated pink, purple and blue scheme calls to mind an early 1970s executive suite. It’s kind of amazing that they don’t smell of cigarettes.

I favor the one on our apartment’s west side. It lives next to a potted fig tree and, most important, occupies the farthest point in the home from the spot where I charge my phone. The cushion is perfectly firm and the deep, walled-off arms function like buttresses. Inserting myself between them helps me access that mile-high feeling of being cocooned and hyper-focused on the material in my lap.

Most of what I read is for work — I write book reviews, and as I type this I’m under the gun to read and write about 10 books within the next three weeks. My home office is an avalanche of forthcoming books. So even when it’s not for an assignment, I tend to read things that won’t be out for another few months, which can be frustrating when I want to gossip and compare notes with my friends.


I usually stick to fiction, but one standout nonfiction read was journalist Rachel Monroe’s forthcoming “Savage Appetites,” which looks at the connection between women and the mania for true crime. My favorite section was about Frances Lee, an upper-class Boston spinster whose foremost obsession was creating dollhouse-proportioned murder scenes that she called her “nutshells.” Adorable! I try to supplement my contemporary diet with more mature works here and there. Next up is “The Masterpiece” by Emile Zola, based on the author’s dysfunctional friendship with the painter Paul Cezanne. It’s meant to be tragic and nasty. I have a feeling I’ll find it hilarious.

Mechling’s novel, “How Could She,” is being published this month.