Looking for some good reads this summer? Feeling adrift without a syllabus? The Whitworth English department is here to help. Read on for some choice recommendations.
Dr. Casey Andrews: My pick for some delightful, provocative, and delicious summer reading is Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb which is equal parts autobiography, theological exploration, and cookbook. Originally published in 1967, it bears all the hallmarks of a foodie (before the term was en vogue) decrying the wasteland of American cuisine that had turned to “tin fiddles” like electric knives and Velveeta cheese. (There are some jabs at so-called “cocktail parties” where people stand about eating peanuts and sipping vodka—a dismal portrait of the Mad Men era in its heyday.) What Capon argues in his rich style—by turns witty, beautiful, and risky—is that God made people who thrive when they make food together by hand, share lengthy meals, and savor the heady delicacy of wine in all possible varietals. Permit me one quote among the dozens I return to in this book. Capon is describing his love of fine drink and offers the following:
“Admittedly, there are spirits so pronounced that they are unrepentant. Chief among them is marc, or grappa—brandy distilled from the leavings of the vintage. As it happens, though, I have no desire to cover it with anything. I find it delectable—full of nostalgia and the remembrance of the first afternoon on which I drank it. It is redolent of earth and stems and the resurrected soul of the grape, all combined with an overpowering suggestion of freshly painted radiators in a shoe store—which, you will concede, must be the very essence of unforgettability.”
Capon’s book, like the grappa he describes, is delectable and unforgettable. Relish it.
Dr. Laura Bloxham recommends Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, which deals with gender, race, and religion is set in 17th century Massachusetts.
When you finish this good book, read Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie, written in 17th century Massachusetts and also dealing with gender, race, and religion. Both books are astoundingly eye-opening in their treatment of Native Americans. The women are bold, but not unrealistic for their times. The religious struggles are not reduced to stereotypes, but open up understanding.
Dr. Pamela Corpron Parker: I’m midway through The Orchardist by a young Pacific Northwest author, Amanda Coplin. Coplin grew up in Wenatchee, so her settings will be familiar to many readers. Her distinct and sympathetic characters stand in sharp relief to the vast landscape of early 20th-century Central Washington. I loved the main character, Talmudge, whose quiet life as an apple farmer is changed irrevocably when he takes in two pregnant runaway girls. I also found her Native American and female characters distinctly Western and recognizable without being cliché. The plot surprises and engages the reader, but it’s the characters who have held my attention and make me admire this novel. Coplin’s prose is spare, revelatory, and reminiscent of Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, and her debut novels holds as much promise.
Dr. Nicole Sheets: Like a younger, female David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley makes me laugh so hard, even my muffintop hurts. In this essay collection, Crosley examines important topics such as the late 80s/early 90s Oregon Trail computer game, which she describes as “ripe for the misuse. Like a precursor to The Sims, you were allowed to name your wagoneers and manipulate their destinies. It didn’t take me long to employ my powers for evil.” Crosley endures the slings and arrows as an intern for a publishing company, a bridesmaid, a lapsed vegan, a Jewish girl at a Christian summer camp (“On Sunday nights we had vespers, where we lit candles and sang folk songs with titles like ‘The Lord Loves A Strong Swimmer’ and ‘All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.’”) Crosley’s gift for the anecdote will make you care; her string of one-liners will crack you up.