Employing anachronistic speech, the mercury is rising (even while it’s retrograde). We remember why we live around bodies of water separated by concrete and prefabricated homes. Also, it’s time to grab a book en route to a vacation destination, which can also be a staycation in Ponte Vedra. Whether your reading habits are dictated by the New York Times, a podcast, or whatever you see during a layover waiting for the Chili’s To Go to open so you can begin your vacation with two-for-ones 30,000 miles up, the summer is the perfect time to devote to reading.
Anton DiSclafani’s The After Party sounds like a review for Elizabeth Taylor’s role in Giant (which I am TOTALLY into): Texas socialites in the 1950s, replete with oil, scandal, and gossip. The subtext is also the enduring and obsessive female friendships that they experience amid the eye rolling and occasionally vomit-inducing backdrop of the patriarchy.
Emma Cline’s The Girls is a spiked punch of a novel. Sweet fruit soaking in dangerous levels of toxicity, lurching from quenching to disorienting in the span of a cocktail hour. The Manson family’s unhinged summer of ’69 had all the madness and sexuality of a Russ Meyer bikini-clad weapon-toting babe with a higher body count. Volatile and contemplative, this read will leave you with a sunburn in your subconscious that’ll blister and peel. (If the Manson family interests you, Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast has a fantastic two-part episode on the cultural and personal toll their violence wreaked.)
Darryl Pinckney’s Black Deutschland illustrates that journeys of self discovery can be more fraught with disaster than international travel—with no skymiles for your trouble. Jed is out of rehab and on the road to a memory: the Weimar Berlin recalled in Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories (and then Cabaret). The experience he cleaves as a black ex-patriate seeking a place that no longer exists is gorgeous and painful. The landscape of identity has few signposts, and the destination is never fixed.
In a departure from fiction, we have Shelley Emling’s Setting the World on Fire: The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena”]Setting the World on Fire: The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena[/p2p].” Nothing says relaxing beach read like reading about a woman who lived through both the Plague and the Crusades to become one of two patron saints of Italy. Many feminists have sought the benediction of Catherine due to her refusal to marry (in the 14th century, mind you) and her declaration that her physical appearance was of no importance.
Lastly, we have Jean Stein’s West of Eden: An American Place. The nod to Steinbeck intrigued me, as the dust bowl promises of westward expansion and the obscene wealth created from unchecked vertical integration resulting in antitrust laws as a backdrop to the megalithic Hollywood enterprise as a cultural identity is wont to do. This is a cultural history of the Dohenys, Jack Warner, Jane Garland, Jennifer Jones, and Jules Stein, all of whom aided in the creation (destruction) of Hollywood as a construct and business. Cultural currency and actual currency coalescing into tales that rival their fictitious counterparts.
Whether your reading experience is poolside, in the workplace, or relegated to the gym via audiobooks while you exercise both your mind and body, congratulate yourself on reading as an experience, or an escape, or an enhancement. All of the above titles are available at the Jacksonville Public Library and presumably the internet. For further personal recommendations throughout the year, check out this tool on their website www.jpl.coj.net/lib/readers.html. By filling out a simple form, a librarian will hand pick selections from the collection for you. Give it a try!