Sunday, June 1, 2008

Six Books I'll Be Reading This Summer

The weatherman on Channel 12 has repeatedly promised that summer is coming soon. Ever the optimist, I'm trusting that he's right (meanwhile, while writing this I look out at a grey overcast Portland sky and 55 degree temperature) so I've pulled together a summer reading list for myself. The best part of summer will be spent sprawling out on our house's yellow, flowered porch-couch for hours, reading and drinking (depending on the time of day - lemonade, iced tea, chardonnay or gin & tonics). When the sun reveals itself, I'll be ready.

1) Marie Antoinette / Anthonia Fraser: I've seen the movie, now it's time to read the book. I suspect that M.A. was a bit deeper than Kristin Dunst portrayed her to be, or at least more interesting...

2) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle / Haruki Murakami: "In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat." That's all Murakami has to plot to make this girl swoon.

3) M.F.K. Fisher: A Life in Letters: I've developed a lovely habit of getting up early on Saturday mornings, making a pot of french press coffee, and working my way through 25-50 pages of an author's giant collection of letters on our porch-couch. It's a crazy, unexpected habit - getting up before the cars and buses flood Belmont, to read someone's private letters from, say, 1919. I've found that I learn so much more from letters than I do biographies. Letters chronicle their struggles, growth, hypocrisies and blind spots in a way that even a finely finessed biography can't. And anyone who wrote a book titled "How to Cook a Wolf" must write damned interesting letters.

4) The Golden Notebook / Doris Lessing: I saw a woman online who had this book on her reading list because the book had been sitting on her shelf for 30 years, unread. I decided that was reason enough not to wait. The back of the book suggests it's "a work of high seriousness." I won't save this one for the beach.

5) I Was Told There'd Be Cake / Sloane Crosley: I'm insanely jealous of this girl's success (she's my age - MY AGE!), but she's supposed to be funny as hell, and I like funny.

6) Paris Stories / Marvis Gallant: I'm just finishing up a writing class on short story structure this month at The Attic, so I've currently got the nose of a bloodhound for great examples of story structure, and I suspect I'll find it in Gallant: "Read any one of Mavis Gallant's stories and you are at once swept away - captivated, amazed, moved - by the grace of her sentences, the ease of her wit, the suppleness of her narrative, the complexity and originality of her perfectly convincing characters. She is a fearless writer." (Deborah Eisenberg, Alice Munro and Joy Williams, Judges of the 2002 Rea Award for Short Story)

BONUS READS: The Princess Camassima (Henry James) and/or The Metamorphosis and other stories (Franz Kafka).

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