Thursday, August 20, 2009

Festive Friday: Your Summer Reading

by J J Cohen

In May it seems that summer will stretch languidly to the crack o' doom, that long days and warm nights will bring book after book to some poolside paradise where the mojitos never run dry. Then I awaken from that dream and realize that I am giving a lecture I need to obsess over, or have an essay past due, and the next thing I know I'm up to my neck in Anglo-Norman lapidaries. Not the guilty pleasure, alcohol accompanied reading I had in mind back in May.

Of course it could be worse: I could be swallowed and excreted by a fox.

As I'm packing for Maine, I am dithering over which of my unfinished volumes of light summer reading will accompany me on the trip. Behold an image of the bottom of my night table, on which you will find stacked the following aestival fluff, along with the page number I've reached so far:
  1. Edward P. Jones, All Aunt Hagar's Children (p. 347)
  2. Christopher Paolini, Eragon (Alex's signed edition, which he begged me to read, p. 393)
  3. Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book (p. 294)
  4. Toni Morrison, A Mercy (p. 3)
  5. Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth (p. 0)
  6. Harry Turtledove, The Gladiator: A Tale of Crosstime Traffic (another Alex insistence, p. 0)
  7. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (p. 0)
  8. Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends (p. 15)
  9. Marcel Proust, Swann's Way (p. 132)
Since Proust was my big summer project, I suppose I'd better lug that one. The problem is that it makes me very hungry for dainty cookies at inopportune times.

So how about you: what non-scholarly books have you read this summer ... or attempted to read? What are your favorites? What didn't you like?


Rick Godden said...

My big summer reading project was Ulysses. I'm on page *cough* 126. I'm always so idealistic at the beginning of the summer. By the way, pg. 400 in Proust's Within a Budding Grove. One of these days I'll continue that previous summer reading project.

Karl Steel said...

Non scholarly? Surely you jest.

I read a collection of short stories by Andrea Barrett, Ship Fever and before that (as in, through the Winter and up to Summer's doorstep) A. S. Byatt's Frederica Quartet. I'm inordinately proud for getting through that, which is not to say I didn't like it. I loved all of it; it was just hella long. What else? My friend Jim Fuerst's debut novel Huge, which I also enjoyed enormously.

On the bedside table, I have a couple Specula, a collection of Carolingian verse, and Andrea Barrett's Voyage of the Narwhal (p. 27), Thomas L. Thompson's The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (a stoop-sale find for 1$; I've read 100 or so pages haphazardly), and the Penguin edition of the Saga of Grettir the Strong, which, thanks to you and Eileen, I'm teaching this Fall. But I should probably read it first.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Well you are ahead of me, Rick, when it comes to Proust. I am afraid I will be in a nursing home some day reading the latest translation and I'll bite into a madeleine and it will remind me of the first 100 times I attempted it.

I banish Specula and their ilk from my night table -- but as my family will attest I am always smuggling such things across the border from my study, which is very close by. Karl, should I read Ship Fever? I recall that you enjoyed it.

Rick Godden said...

Don't worry, I suspect I'll never get through Proust. It's about the journey and not the destination, right? (Or at least let me believe that for a little while more.)

I have a whole bookcase shelf I call my graveyard shelf. It's filled with books I started but didn't finish. As it is, this is my third time trying Ulysses. I always get sidelined by things like dissertations or classes.

Karl Steel said...

Definitely read Ship Fever. If you don't like it by the first few stories, skip to the title story. It's wonderful.

For my grad theory course (which is really the 'intro to theory for public school teachers who need an MA' course), I decided on doing a modern novel as a laboratory for theory. I thought about Diary of a Steak, but ultimately decided on Caryl Phillips' The Nature of Blood. I've never read it, but ALK's endorsed it heartily on several occasions, so I have high hopes.

I honestly think my favorite novel is one I've tried 3 times and never finished: Tristam Shandy. The only other book I imagine is anywhere near as good is Don Quixote, which I've also never finished.

ASM said...

When you are further into Maps and Legends, let me know what you thought of it. It was widely panned, but I quite liked much of it. Just reading The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break, Steven Sherrill, which I am rather enjoying. --Asa

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one Rick.

Karl: Ship Fever, will read. As To DQ and TS: both sad books (sorry if I am giving anything away...) and both among my favorites. Certainly books that have stayed with me for a very long time, and still influence my thinking about what literature can do. And no matter how many times I read or talk about the cornball ending of DQ, it brings a tear to my eye.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Asa, I imagine I'll return to Maps at some point in the fall, so I'll let you know then.

Anonymous said...

On at least six to eight consecutive family vacations to Wells Beach (not too far from Ogunquit), I remember my dad reading Gravity's Rainbow for that one week and that one week only. As a 10 to 12 year old I remember asking him what it was about. He said something like, "Uh... rockets." I said something like, "Cool!"

Rob Barrett said...

Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold. The first two volumes in Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. China Mieville's The City and the City. R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing trilogy.

There are others, but I'm not remembering them now.

Ms. Grinberg said...

The only non scholarly for me was Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Wish I had more time for something else... though Christine de Pizan, Hildegard von Bingen, and all the other writers were fun to read.