Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer Reading

Kevin H. pointed out one of the benefits of being involved in bookselling in his last post, and while being inundated daily with the best new releases can be exciting, it can also be exhausting trying to play catch-up.

No matter how many highly-touted debut story collections you read, or how many hefty histories you plough through, there's alway something else greedily demanding your attention. (Ahem.) The book reviews and blogs, customer requests and co-workers' recommendations, and a full shelf of advanced reading copies in our breakroom all add up to an almost feverish pitch - I've got to keep up! The bedside stack soon topples over under the deluge of the latest "must-reads," so that last week's must reads are quickly forgotten. Appropriate, I suppose, for our age of short attentions.

When I take a moment to collect myself, I realize that there's no need to rush. Books, despite the sometimes hysterical rhetoric about their imminent demise, will be around for a while yet. (Hopefully, I will as well.) Indeed, patience often provides its own pleasures. With this in mind, I have decided to dedicate my summer reading to classics that I have overlooked, have been meaning to get around to, or that are too intimidating. Or, hell, that are just too big.

First up, Sentimental Education, which I bought while in an excited state after reading Madame Bovary and yet have let collect dust on my shelves for almost 10 years now. (Madame Bovary is, of course, a must. For those with a taste for the bizarre and erudite, The Temptation of Saint Anthony is a marvel - and completely unexpected. If you are really into Flaubert, I recommend his Egyptian journals, which reveal among other things his distinctly 19th century fondness for prostitutes.)

Maybe Flaubert's "lesser" works are no longer fashionable, but 150 pages has convinced me of the psychological acuity of his depiction of the follies and joys of youth (often one in the same thing). Without giving anything away, the story follows the fortunes of Frederic Moreau, whose passion for an older married woman, the lovely Madame Arnoux, provides the hook upon which Flaubert hangs an at times tender and pessimistic satire of his culture, which feels surprisingly modern.

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Now, care to share your summer reading?

2 comments:

shopworker said...

Nice post - and I hope you'll post about how you get on with Sentimental Education! I've never read Flaubert, I mean to start with Madame Bovary some time.

I'm really looking forward to my summer reading this year because I've just finished a college course and have loads of time to read whatever I want!

I'm in reading Kieron Smith, boy by the brilliant James Kelman at the moment - I thoroughly recommend his work.

I think a lot of my summer fiction reading will have a Scottish flavour this year - I've got my eye on more Kelman for a start. Morvern Callar by Alan Warner and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner are also on the to-read pile. Oh, and Jackie Kay's latest!

I also feel it's nearly time for a re-read of The Quair trilogy.

I'll be taking a brief detour to Portugal first, though - I picked up a copy of Blindness by Saramago for £1.50 in a charity shop last week and I'm really looking forward to it.

Spiros said...

Trollope.