Monday, August 27, 2012

End of Summer Romances

Books for Summer's End

I have to admit, I was very flattered when my buddy Bobby asked for my opinion about a book recommendation. The back story? Well, Bobby and I have spent a few afternoons together talking about poetry and literature, mostly of the Irish variety. And for Bobby, the book recommendation was not for him, but rather for an acquaintance of his who was on her way somewhere. I suspect that this acquaintance was something of a future promise of romance, but at the time he needed this recommendation, the allure of a liaison was nothing more than a vague hint. What did I recommend? Well, I was on the move when he asked. He asked via text message. He was already at the bookstore. And I had to think on my feet.

There are some people in my past who I really admired because of their ability to think on their feet when it came to books and writers. Kyle Bass was quick. He was quick in many, many ways. And I did admire him greatly too. I can think of two such conversations I had with him in the summer of 2007 when he changed tracks and recommended books and stories because of what I was doing. He recommended Frank Conroy's Stop-time and not because I was writing memoir. He recommended Jerzy Kosiniski's The Painted Bird for a very similar reason. When we talked about dialogue in fiction and the associated attribution he was quick with Raymond Carver's “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” and William Faulkner's “That Evening Sun.” I suspect that Kyle was able to come up with these things because of his experiences in life, as a reader, as a writer and also as a teacher. Yes, I admire him greatly.

This is probably why I was so thrilled when Bobby asked for my opinion. We spent a few text messages hashing out what the book should be by discussing what the message should be, the relationship (current, past, and future hopefully) between Bobby and the girl. I also wanted to know where the girl was going.

We came up with this: something light and profound. I would not, and I cannot recommended a book such as The Prophet or The Alchemist in any sort of serious way. I feel the same way about a book that was big time in the 1990s and all but vanished now: The Celestine Prophecy. I feel this way because these books are too canned, too obvious, too something not personal or subtle. I enjoyed The Alchemist very much, and the others are okay too, but they are generic when it comes to “here, I bought you this book for your trip, please think of me when you're drinking wine, eating cheese, and smoking late night cigarettes in the south of France.”

I ultimately recommended Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams. I guess I just figured that this book is light enough to read on the beach, beautiful enough to make an impression and not overtly preachy or philosophical. It's the kind of book I think the promise of becoming a future lover should gift to a potential beloved.

Which leads me to the next stage. What do you say when at the end of the summer and your new lover is going away on a trip without you? Or worse still, what about when your new lover is about to leave you and go home to a far away or foreign place?

I don't know why I would think of such a thought today. I don't know why I recall the likes of my friend Bobby, or my former instructor Kyle. I don't know what it is other than the light outside today which sort of looks like the end of summer. And the end of summer light to me makes me nostalgic for the end of the teenage romances I never had because I was too busy washing dishes or fighting the war. The end of summer light is the sweet goodbyes wrapped in future promises of love affairs to come and wit and wisdom that becomes good reads on the coming autumn days. And before I give you my list, let me just say that it is good for you on an end of a potential love affair or on a shortening end of summer lighted day or as a recommendation to a friend who might be on her way to France. Those things, yes, but these are some of my highly coveted reads.

Ray Bradbury Dandelion Wine
Etgar Keret The Busdriver Who Wanted to Be God
Alan Lightman Einstein's Dreams
Eduardo Galeano The Book of Embraces
Richard Brautigan So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away

No comments:

Post a Comment