As summer inches closer, here are Professor Vic Bobb’s and Professor LuElla D’Amico’s summer reading recommendations. Enjoy!
Professor Vic Bobb: Lazy Days…and Energetic Page Turning
So what are you going to read this summer? There are a lot of books out there. Not all of them feature characters with skin that sparkles in the sunlight. In fact, most of them don’t. And all of the best and most worthy among them…um…don’t.
Reading during the summer being a sacramental act, I’m suggesting books in accord with the sacrament of marriage. What to read? Here are Vic’s suggestions for the Marriage of True Minds:
Something Old: I know, I know; some of you think that “Old” would refer to some character’s third year at Hogwarts. I’m thinking of an older old. Howsabout Tristram Shandy, published in chunks during the 1760s and, as far as I know, taught not even once at Whitworth in the past 28 years. A person who wanted to proclaim Tristram Shandy the funniest book ever published was in a defensible position for more than a century and a half…but with the publication of Right-ho, Jeeves, in 1934, the question of the most truly pantswettingly funny book of all time was abruptly and finally settled, and partisans of the Reverend Mister Laurence Sterne were pleased to acknowledge that, because of P.G. Wodehouse, their idol was forever to be known as the second funniest writer in the history of the English language. (Peace, Terry Pratchett fans…)
Your alternative (or additional) “something old” for this or any other summer: something by Dickens that you haven’t read recently. And if you don’t have any Dickens in your past, go ahead and dive right in to Bleak House, simply one of the greatest novels ever written. Read some Dickens; you’ll be glad you did.
Something New: How new is “new”? Howsabout “this century”? Penelope Lively’s The Photograph (2003) is a very fine (and sad) novel (and if it’s your introduction to Lively, next you can read all her novels except Heat Wave, which is thoroughly unworthy of her enormous talents); Ian McEwan started the century [2001-2007] with a pretty swell triad (Atonement, Saturday, On Chesil Beach); Pat Barker’s Another World is cheating because it’s 1998, but she’s worth reading in whatever century; Never Let Me Go continues the excellence that Kazuo Ishiguro began back in the 20th; and from this side of the Atlantic—not for the fainthearted—is Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, about which I said in my reading journal, “Wow. For action-suspense, McCarthy can make Mickey Spillane look like Jane Austen, and The Terminator look like a Teletubbies episode. And Bell’s reflections on the state of our culture…gulp.” Be warned.
Something Borrowed: (These books needed an intermediary, someone to borrow the original language and transform it into eloquent English.)
Michel Quint, In Our Strange Gardens (France, French, translated by Barbara Bray)
Cristina Peri Rossi, The Museum of Useless Efforts (Uruguay / Spain, Spanish, translated by Tobias Hecht)
Slavenka Drakulić, The Balkan Express (Croatia, language-is-part-of-the-question, translated by Maja Soljan)
Victor Pelevin, The Yellow Arrow (Russia, Russian, translated by Andrew Bromfield)
Pär Lagerkvist, Barabbas (Sweden, Swedish, translated by Alan Blair)
Something Blue Not blue as in the sitcom star’s stand-up routine that you’re really sorry you took your grandmother to for her birthday; not blue as in blue states, blue laws, blue-sky regulations, or blueberry pie, but blue as in These Are The Books Vic Listed Under “Blue” in order to round out the rather pointless and clunky theme of this list….
Florence King, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady (Actually, this one is pretty blue as to language; herewith a Serious Vulgarity Alert. But a very funny, and touching, memoir.)
Fanny Flagg, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man A sheerly delightful book.
Ron Hansen, Atticus The final sentence. Now you have to read the whole book again.
Bob Dylan, Chronicles (Volume One) Only for people who are already favorably inclined toward Bob Dylan. For those folks…a) you’ve never read anything like this in your life; b) maybe this is something like what it’s like to be inside Bob Dylan’s head; c) you won’t put it down, and you’ll wish it were twice as long as it is.
Philip Larkin, Selected Letters 1941-1985. Hilarious, heartbreaking, insightful, utterly fascinating. The correspondence with Kingsley Amis is, itself, worth whatever the book costs. In fact, once you’re a quarter of the way into this collection, get Betterworld.com to send you the immense volume of Amis’s correspondence: that book is also an enormous pleasure to read.
Don’t forget sunblock.
I now pronounce you Reader and Book.
Professor LuElla D’Amico: First, of course I have to suggest one of my favorite nineteenth-century women writers, E.D.E.N. Southworth. If you haven’t read the “gothic comedy,” The Hidden Hand, you should–and do so as soon as possible. Bandits, thieves, madwomen, and lots of cross-dressing…what could be more fun? And if you find you like Southworth, you should also check out Love’s Labour Lost, the book by her that I most recently read. In fact, Love’s Labour Won, the sequel, is already on my personal summer reading list. Warning: Southworth like most nineteenth-century authors specializes in long, long books, but they’re quick and juicy reads, perfect for rainy Spokane summer days especially.
In terms of newer fiction, which I suppose you must delve into every once in a while, I suggest Paulo Coehlo’s Veronika Decides to Die. It’s one of those books that made me remember why I love what I love (and perhaps will remind you why you love what you love as well). Quite simply, Coehlo helps readers appreciate what I like to think of as the ever present, but often obscured, music of life. And speaking of the music of life and remembering how to enjoy summer days fully, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being is another perfect summer reading pick. This book is especially good if you’re planning on traveling and need a good read for the plane or long car ride. I promise it’ll make your trip all the better. Happy break!
Image from here.