Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer of Literature

I made a small goal for myself this summer. I decided that I would alternate my book choices. For every fluffy, “light summer reading” type book, I’d alternate with a classic. Now I know “classic” has many definitions, and can signify a particular period in literature, but for my purposes classic means any book on my shelves written by a celebrated author of their day. In other words, those books I buy intending to get around to reading someday, or books written by my favorite authors. Some of those on my shelves include Edna Ferber, Sinclair Lewis, Jane Austen, RF Delderfield, Margery Sharp, PG Wodehouse, and Booth Tarkington, to name just a few.
First up was “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. I thought I watched the miniseries when it first came out in the early 80s, but I certainly didn’t remember it. This was such a sad story of what we would now call a dysfunctional family. Had it been the story of an American family I’m sure I would have pitched it. But I’m a sucker for British literature, and the lush descriptions of Oxford and Italy and the Brideshead estate saved it for me. Since finishing the book, I’m trying to watch the miniseries again, but it’s going slowly. It’s hard to watch much video in the summer – I look at the baseball games instead, and spend much more time outside, if the weather’s nice.
The second classic was “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson. I’ve had this on my shelf for years, the “Modern American Library” edition, with an idyllic scene on its dust jacket. How deceptive. Again, such a sad, dark book. At first, it reminded me of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, only in prose instead of poetry. But at least in Spoon River, you had a few happy souls in the cemetery. In Winesburg everyone was tormented by their inner demons, and if they did have a strong faith, it was usually a little too far on the zealous side. I couldn’t wait to get out of that town. I had it on my coffee table and one day my brother picked it up and asked me why I was reading it. He had scanned the chapter headings and thought it sounded just dreadful.
In right now, I’m in the middle of John Steinbeck’s “The Moon is Down”. Too early for a review, but I’m racing through it. It’s been a long time since I've read Steinbeck, and I forgot how much I enjoy his writing. I picked this book because it’s just an old mass-market paperback (complete with underlined passages), so when I’m finished with it I’ll donate it to Goodwill or the library book sale. The other two books are already in the donation box. It’s highly unlikely I’d ever read either one again, or want to pass them on to friends, and I need space on the bookshelves!

I’m not sure what will come next, or how long I’ll keep this going. Maybe I’ll extend it through the end of the year. Maybe it will become a permanent habit. So often, I put off reading a "deeper" book because I think I'm too busy to get involved with a heavy novel. But so far, this is working out well!

No comments:

Post a Comment