I have great memories of summer reading. I read Jane Eyre on the beach when I was fifteen, visiting Florida for the the first time with my parents. Almost twenty years later, I read Valley of the Dolls on the beach in New Jersey; not quite as good, but just as absorbing. During another summer I took a train across the country and read Crime and Punishment; later in that trip, or maybe during a different one, I read the first four or five Sue Grafton mysteries. I had made up a fake identity that trip and lied about myself to the young fellow sitting next to me, who borrowed all the Sue Graftons and liked them quite a bit, as I did. But I didn't like the later ones in the series as much, maybe because I wasn't reading them under my false identity anymore.
These days, long out of school, I find my summers not too much different from the rest of the year, except for the week in August we spend with JR's family on the Jersey Shore. I always bring books on that trip, and they turn out to be the wrong books, and then I have to go to a certain tiny bookshop in a town called Harvey Cedars and buy all new books. Usually JR and the boys wait in the car while I hurriedly grab whatever, and it's always perfect.
So far, this year, finding extra reading time while the boys take their swimming lessons, I've been reading John Gardner's On Moral Fiction. Though I find his anti-experimental view a bit limiting, it's hard not to agree with a lot he says. So far my favorite bit is Lore Segal's introduction, though. She describes a time when writers got together at dinner parties and had heated discussions about the purpose of literature. I've been to a few dinner parties with writers, and things seem to be a lot less heated these days. Apparently William Gass once said, at one of these shindigs, that "on the page, the holocaust and a corncob have the same weight." Which caused fellow guest Cynthia Ozick to feel a bit faint, as you can imagine.
Recently I found myself over at Literary Rejections on Display, accidently running with a crowd bent on taking down Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and more recently More Than it Hurts You. I criticized an essay he wrote, other commenters followed up with digs at his author photo and the plot summaries of novels on Amazon and his biography, and now, feeling terrible about the whole thing, I went and bought his book. Which looks good and thick and pretty compelling: it's about Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Whoa! I don't think I'll wait for the beach to read it.
What do you like to read in the summer?