Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Summer Reading List Wrap-up

It's funny. I've decided not to read anymore.
Well, although this is not entirely true, it certainly feels like this.
The summer, has gone by in the normal fashion: hot days, short nights, plenty of work. Oddly enough, this summer has not been the torture for me that most summers have been. As long as we're talking about it, I loathe the summertime. I hate the hot weather. I don't like the hordes of people. Having to hear the flip-floppy sloppy strides of herds of schleppy kids is enough to break the last nerve I have. The summer to me is just too awful. The heat is one thing: the Middle East and Tucson, Arizona cured me of that. The mass of people? Well, the years in the service industry made the reality that there are others in the world for good or bad. But all in all, this summer, the summer of 2011 in Portland, has not been too awful. And sadly, I did not read much at all.

I started out strong. W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil is a great read. Quick. I love Maugham and after reading this one, I know why John McManus (my graduate school adviser) loves this writer so much. This book, wonderfully written, is very much plot driven. Based on Dante, an English couple goes into the Chinese interior to fight the cholera epidemic. It's simply the husband's desire to kill the wife. But what was so striking for me was not so much the plot, but Kitty, the main character. I cannot think of another book where a character changes and grows and takes control so much as Kitty.

James Hilton's Lost Horizon was a grueling read for some reason. The best part of the whole affair was a conversation I had with a bookstore worker while at the bar one night. He associated the book with The Kinks' tune “Shangri-La,” which I thought was funny. The pace of the novel is slow. The long passages of dialogue further slows the pace of the read. As far as 20th century literature goes, there is something 19th century in the narration. Hilton uses way too many narrators to tell the story. Woodsford Green a writer, ultimately tells us about Hugh Conway and his adventures. It reminds me of Shelley's Frankenstein, and Bronte's Wuthering Heights which Hilton himself referred. But I know why the book was a best seller in 1933. It's far-fetched, exotic and fun. It is the opposite of the doldrums of 1933.

Judith Rossner's Looking for Mr. Goodbar? What a cool book. Theresa is a wonderful character, and the book is ultimately her book. Being set in the 1970s the book addresses many old vs new elements: Catholicism and women's lib and the Jewish community's shift from the traditional to pot toking. The backdrop of Vietnam with one of Theresa's lovers is time appropriate. The book is sex, sex, sex. The older sister goes to Puerto Rico for an abortion. Socially speaking, the book is great. I think the book made the impact it did because the subjects were pertinent for the time. It's a wonderfully written book too.

Those three books sum up the entire summer for me. I only read three. I don't think I've ever read so little. I tried to read both Lolita and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but to no avail. I just could keep focus. It's weird. I never engaged in nude beach volleyball; I simply did not read.

I hope your summer reading went better than mine.  

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