I began Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica a couple of days ago, drawn to one of our remaindered copies due to the Henry Darger illustration NYRB had decided to slap on the cover of their edition. Not only did Hughes' 1929 masterpiece (#71 on The Modern Library's list: The 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century, FYI) draw me in immediately, but it has also inspired multiple themes that I'm looking forward to applying in my summer reading list. Most importantly, tropical adventure. Last summer my reading, for whatever reason, revolved around major bummers. Example: In 2009 suddenly saw myself outside of my own body, lounging in the grass of one of San Francisco's many beautiful public parks, toggling between Suicide and Nausea. Though proud to have tackled an existentialist classic and a staunch psychological text back to back, still I asked, "What the hell is wrong with me?" and vowed that the next summer I would get it right. So, tropical reading '10 it is.
What's exciting about this is to me about this idea is the inherent insanity of the tropical setting. It, in theory, gives a book a strong backbone to begin with. Along with the fun of attempting to visualize what is to most an intriguing, foreign setting, the questionable moral state we call human nature seems to easily compose its dramas on remote islands or wayward vessels- human isolation and the dynamic will of the world (extreme weather conditions) ultimately must to come in to play. Man versus nature versus man versus man themes are practically unavoidable.
Here's a brief list of a few I'm excited to start. The what I've got so far and the little I know of them:
-Peter Mattheissen's Far Tortuga
What Mattheissen originally intended as a short article became a novel, a meditation on the sea itself.
-Stephen Marche's Shining at the Bottom of the Sea
A documentation of an island that never actually existed. This one comes with a high recommendation from my colleague, NPB.
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor
Short non-fiction surrounding the life of a sailor who survived some dubious set of circumstances at sea, eventually found washed up on a Colombian beach.
-A. Merritt's The Moon Pool
A 1919 tale of some sort of a man named Dr. Throckmartin and his metaphysical misadventures in The South Pacific. This book has chapter titles like Larry and the Frog-Men and looks to me like it will be the most sci-fi novel I have ever even expressed an interest in reading.
So far any other ideas that I've had fall under the categories of ALREADY READ (Island) and DON'T PARTICULARLY CARE TO READ (The Beach), so if you have any suggestions I'd be obliged to listen. Four books is not gonna' cover the next three months, y'know?