The Stories of Summer

Thalia has challenged me to proffer a Summer Reading List, and I am in the mood to oblige.

It is odd that we still phrase it as such, a “summer” list. When, now that we are supposedly grown up and out of school and in “real” jobs, our summers are just as busy as the rest of our time.

In fact, more so, because in the nice weather we want to be swimming or canoeing or hiking or running about with firecrackers!

So really, it ought to be a winter reading list. For when all we want to do is curl up by the fire and let the dark, drowsy days lull us into exploring the imagination.

But summer reading was what was requested. So here it goes part one!


A Humorous Read:

The Luck of Bodkins
By P. G. Wodehouse

For some reason, this seems to be one of the lesser known of Wodehouse’s work. Every time read it I am seized with a desire to make into a stage play.

It is fairly typical of his shenanigans, only, on a boat. In the middle of the ocean. With a jealous fiancée, a flippant movie star, a charming ne’er-do-well, and a desperate movie magnate. Not to mention all of their respective romantic partners, indeliable (no, that is not a mistype) lipstick, smuggled pearls, and a Mickey Mouse doll.

And a baby alligator.

Moreover, the opening sentence is brilliant. “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”

How can you resist?

A Classic Read:

The Sun Also Rises
By Earnest Hemingway

Part of my personal quest for the summer is to actually read some of those classics of American Literature. I have always been more fond of British Lit, and despite dipping into O’Connor and Walker Percy and a few others, I have managed to avoid the BIG names.

So I read some Hemmingway.

And to my shock, I enjoyed it. In part because this is one of his earlier and lighter works, I think. It lacks the nice, tidy conclusion that my heart craves, but it does have a moments of intense human experience. I had expected the layers of significance and symbolism, but I had not expected the humor.

Of course, my enjoyment was in a darkly perverse, cynically amused sort of way.

“The road to Hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs!”
“He’s a taxidermist.”
“But that was in another country. And besides, all the animals were dead.”

So if you feel like trying to read some of the American Greats, I suggest starting here.

A Must Read Before You Die:

Gilead
by Marilyn Robinson

This book is an extraordinary work art, employing words so delicately, precisely, and beautifully that my heart trills over every sentence. And yet the story, or rather, the narrative remains in the fore, crafted and buoyed, not distracted from, by the language.

It written in the form of a long letter from an elderly and dying minister to his very young son. It is in part a history, in part a  love story, in part an introduction to father the boy will never know, and it is entirely a meditation.

One of my professors once described modern though as being “discoursive”, constantly moving and progressing, while classical thought was contemplative, staying at one point and considering all that passes.

This book, while being very modern, is contemplative in the softest, most gentle, loving, self-revealing way possible. It was described to me as being a tale revealing the sheer miracle of existence, which is   . . . true. But is also very narrow a summary of the simple grace, sunshine, life, and humanity that bubble up and overflow each page.

If I make it sound saccharine or preachy, forgive me. It is not. It is a gently melancholy book, told in a peacefully strange style. It is beautiful.

For the good of your soul, read it.

That should keep y’all going for about a week, right?

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2 thoughts on “The Stories of Summer

  1. If only I were a swift reader. Alas.
    It seems every time I turn around I discover more books I wish to read immediately, and I am currently reading five at the same time.

    • Well, you should make time to read Gilead. It will ease your soul from the discomfort of having to chose between books!

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