Summer reading is there anything more glorious? The one summer I worked at the Harvard Coop we had a “tome table” upstairs in the fiction section. A whole table full of 800 page plus books. If cheesy summer reading was not your cup of tea, there were many options for indulging your literary geek all season long. This summer I’ve been trying to do both. Indulging both my literary geek and sneaking in the guilty pleasure or two along the way. A little fun a little serious keeps everything in check.
Last month I wandered into a used bookstore high on caffeine. Always a bad idea for me, but fortunately this time Péter Nádas’ beautiful book A Book of Memories jumped out at me from a bottom shelf and I was saved. I am working my way very slowly through this 700 page tome reading one chapter at a time. I’m blown away each time I pick it up and it may be December before I want to end this love affair with my Hungarian writer. Here’s what hooked me while I was reading in the bookstore,
Experiences related to my past, but the past is itself but a distant allusion to my insignificant desolation, hovering as rootlessly as any lived moment in what I might call the present: only memories of tastes and smells of a world to which I no longer belong, one I might call my abandoned homeland, which I left to no purpose because nothing bound me to the one I found myself in, either; I was a stranger there, too, and not even Melchior, the only human being I loved, could make me belong; I was lost, I did not exist, my bones and solid flesh turned to jelly; and yet, despite the feeling of being torn from everything and belonging nowhere, I could still perceive myself to be something: a toad pressing heavily against the earth; a slimy-bodied snail unblinkingly observing my own nothingness; what was happening to me was nothing, if even this nothing contained my future and, because of the successive autumns, some of my past as well.
I just finished reading Frances and Bernard. Reading letters, even fictionalized letters is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I would read a few before bed each night, savoring the communication between two writers finding their place in love, in work and contemplating the questions of life. Loosely based on the letters of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, here’s a little taste of Frances writing to her friend about how she is dealing with her new found feelings . .
He was right. I make him bread. I make him cakes. Pies. And it’s summer. I am behaving the way I behave at home: standoffishly, and pies to offset the standoffishness. The bread and pies are beads on a rosary, paces to go though because I can’t think how I might love of my own accord.