Saturday, July 10, 2010

summer reads

Mayhaps it's the hot steamy weather but every summer I fill my imaginary book bag with heady, learned treatise to get me through the summer. Autodidact is me, by golly.

Then reality sets in. With the equinox my mind turns to mush and I return like the swallows to the same place on the book shelves, those reserved for summer reading only. Mostly the short stories of southern writers, Faulkner, Twain, Capote, Welty. I tell myself, that this is the year I'll get through something by Conroy, but other than an old Esquire article or two, I just can't do it. Maugham gets thrown in the mix too. Can you imagine reading Maugham in the cold? It's beyond my comprehension.

I'm inexplicably drawn to a time, just before my time, in other hot, steamy settings. To my mind's eye no one does hot better than Southern American writers.

A week before Labor Day,I close out the season, with Hemingway's, "Islands in the Stream". I prefer this to all other Hemingway. For me it's the ultimate back to school story, speaking personally to me as a father. It gets me every time.

I am embarrassed to not know there the following quote came from. It's a comment to a blog post. Who's I no longer have a clue, and I never knew whose comment it was. My apologies to both, and will happily give hearty praise if either or both can be identified.

The quote obviously has to do with how to read Kipling. It's exquisite. I'd kill to have the skill to write this paragraph. Although unsaid, I feel it also applies to every pre-electronic author. During the dog days, consider the author, laboring in self imposed exile in Oxford, Key West or Connecticut.


"Read him slowly, dear girl, you must read Kipling slowly, watch carefully where the commas fall so you can discover the natural pauses. He is a writer who used pen and ink. He looked up from the page a lot, I believe, stared through his window and listened to birds, as most writers who are alone do. Some do not know the names of birds, though he did. Your eye is too quick and North American. Think about the speed of his pen. What an appalling, barnacled old first paragraph it is otherwise."

Read on.

Toad

14 comments:

James said...

Great quote, you tend to forget that reading is a skill as well. In this blaring age of instant information, the art of enjoying a book is one of the last refuges.

Nell said...

Quote is from Michael Ondaajte's "The English Patient." Your summer reading ritual choices are spot on. My own annual August re-read is Gatsby -- cannot be July, must be August for appropriate level of steamy torpor. It's new again every year.

M.Lane said...

I love Maugham in summer also. And Ian Fleming. Lots of Ian Fleming.

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

Toad said...

Nell, I'll add The English Patient to the list for fall. Thank you very much.

Suburban Princess said...

I recently read a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - another hot weather writer. It certainly forced me to slow down how I read and where to pause. I have since put the rest of his books on my ereader ;o)

Toad said...

SP: I read "100 Years of Solitude" in Barcelona several years ago. I understand that its the second best seller after Don Quixote.

Somehow, Barc wasn't the place for it, although I certainly understand its appeal to the Spanish.

Mrs. Blandings said...

I just picked up This Side of Paradise and put it down again; too much snow. Was just thinking Hemingway so will take this as a sign. Also, you will love the English Patient; I think I'll re-read it on vacation. Some books just make you want to pet the page.

Toad said...

Earlier in the week Garden and Gun published a piece on the Faulkner archives at UVA. You may find this interesting.

http://faulkner.lib.virginia.edu/

Suburban Princess said...

Toad I hope you enjoy The English Patient - I have read it at least 3 times and always enjoy it. Ondaatje is not your typical Canadian writer.

Suburban Princess said...

Mrs Blandings...I love that...pet the page!

scale worm said...

Just gave a copy of the Finca Vigia collection of Hemingway's short stories to a friend for his Bday. Hemingway always goes well in summer, especially with all of those lovely cold iced drinks.

Empress of The Eye said...

I am just opening the new W. S. Maugham tome...The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham...and am thrilled it has arrived in time for hot summer days.

Thanks for a thoughtful post...again.

Toad said...

Empress, I look forward to comparing thoughts with you on the Maugham bio.

Mistress Cynica said...

I just finished Paula Byrne's excellent Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead and simply must read Brideshead Revisited again.
My favorite Garcia Marquez is Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a beautifully structured novella and a perfect hot weather book.