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Summer Reading: Gaiman and Kurkov

July 1, 2013

We’ve all been doing summer reading. I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin, translated by George Bird. I’ll be happy to answer questions about them if you have any, but find no inclination to describe them at length. Basically, I found Death and the Penguin to be a dissonant summer read, filled with descriptions of Russian winter and post-Soviet machinizations. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a lovely little fantasy story.

Eleanor and Ron and I have been working in an overly air-conditioned college library. Walker and I have been going to rehearsals for The Music Man, which opens next Saturday. Walker accidentally fell off the stage into the orchestra pit last week, which brought back bad memories from the time when Eleanor fell off a stage and broke both her arms, but he seems to have fallen just right and suffered nothing except a bump on the back of the head and a sore back. We’re doing a lot of pet-sitting.  The rain, it raineth every day.

I went through our books and pulled out a few that I thought Walker and Eleanor should read this summer:

for Eleanor
John Gardner, Grendel
Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory
Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita
Anne Sexton, Transformations
Ellen Gilchrist, Victory Over Japan
Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

for Walker
David Beniof, City of Thieves
Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
Diana Wynne Jones, Archer’s Goon
Christopher Moore, Fluke
Cory Doctorow, Pirate Cinema
Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains
William Faulkner, Uncollected Stories
Walker Percy, The Last Gentleman

The Faulkner is in there because Walker and his girlfriend Stephanie decided they would read some of the same books during the coming academic year, when she will be at Kenyon and he at Oberlin, and they decided to start, for whatever reason, with Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I thought this was a poor choice to begin with, but they’ve read some Faulkner here and there, so they’re sticking with it. I said at least read some of the short stories first.

Eleanor has been showing me Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 5, Eleanor is showing Veronica Mars, season 2, to her friend Olivia, Ron and Eleanor are watching Warehouse 13, all of us are watching Doctor Who, different seasons, with different permutations of us, depending on who is home, some of us are watching Supernatural, season 6 with Ron, who is catching up to the rest of the family, and Walker is watching Avatar with Stephanie.

It has been cool and exceedingly rainy. We’ve only been able to go swimming with two of us once, but three of us have been to the movies to see the new Joss Whedon Much Ado About Nothing, which we enjoyed thoroughly. I am not fixing dinner very often (which is okay with me) because rehearsals start at 6 almost every night. Walker and I went to Mansfield to consult about having his wisdom teeth taken out.

If you could make me a list of eight titles to read this summer, what would be on it?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2013 10:25 am

    How fun! Our HS has given the students one book to read this summer: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I was sort of hoping to tackle Infinite Jest. These two books might be my summer. I am in the middle of The Orchardist and it is engrossing.

    • July 3, 2013 9:22 am

      I like Seabiscuit but haven’t tried Unbroken. Did you know that author went to Kenyon?
      As you know, Walker and I think Infinite Jest is fascinating and funny, but Eleanor has not been enjoying it; it maybe plays too much to the obsessive parts of her nature.

      • July 6, 2013 3:55 am

        I loved Unbroken but couldn’t finish Seabiscuit.

        • July 8, 2013 8:04 pm

          Interesting. As much as I adored Seabiscuit, I am having so much trouble gathering up any enthusiasm for Unbroken. Cant’ quite get my head around the reluctance but count it as some odd intuition that I just.should.not. (at least right now)

  2. July 1, 2013 3:01 pm

    Wow, theatre is dangerous in your family! I love that you make reading lists for your kids and that you all watch fantastic TV shows together. Makes me happy.

    • July 3, 2013 9:22 am

      Theatre can be dangerous. There have been jokes about not taking “break a leg” seriously.

  3. July 1, 2013 3:36 pm

    Oo, eight books would be hard. I would put Antigonick on a recommendation list for you because it’s cool, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to venture eight recommendations. I hope Walker likes Archer’s Goon! Has he read Diana Wynne Jones before?

    • July 3, 2013 9:25 am

      He read some of the Chrestomanci stories years ago, when I discovered them at the public library.
      You are really trying to bring me into the fold of…what do I call them? Visual books? I am so not visual. Icons for things sometimes confuse me; I want text that says “handicapped parking” rather than a picture of what I used to call “a round-bottomed person.”

  4. July 1, 2013 8:20 pm

    Plow through all the Scandinavian and Icelandic mysteries I’ve been yammering on about 🙂

    • July 3, 2013 9:27 am

      Maybe if you name the best, the very top-tallest. I read the Larsson ones and then an imitator (the book I tried to mail to you) and felt like I’d had enough of that for a while.

      • July 6, 2013 3:56 am

        Yeah these are different from Larsson. I will check when I get home.

  5. Jenny permalink
    July 2, 2013 2:17 pm

    Here (though I am sure you have already read quite a few of these, since you have read everything in the world):

    Little, Big by John Crowley
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, or if you’ve already read that one, try Teaching A Stone to Talk
    Velocities by Stephen Dobyns
    The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher
    The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
    Fairytale by Alice Thomas Ellis
    The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
    Italian Folktales, Italo Calvino

    The folktales are just to dip in and out of; they’re 800 pages long. I read them in one big gulp, and really liked it that way, because you can see patterns — who is good and who is bad, what role does beauty play, what does birth order mean,that kind of thing — but most people wouldn’t enjoy that many folk tales at a sitting.

    If you read any of these, I want to hear about it!

    • July 3, 2013 9:32 am

      Whoa. That is a hefty compliment.
      In fact, I have read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (love the opening!), The Art of Eating (and then everything else by M.F.K. Fisher), the Saturdays (more than once, and we had audiobooks of The Saturdays and the three other Melendy books when the kids were little), many of the poems from Velocities, and Italian Folktales, which Ron and I read years ago, I think right after we discovered Cosmicomics.
      I am making a library list of these other titles. Thank you very much!

      • Jenny permalink
        July 3, 2013 12:16 pm

        This pleases me no end, because it tells me it was a good list. There’s nothing like making good reading recommendations to someone, if only retroactively. 🙂

        • July 3, 2013 2:23 pm

          Yes, I knew it was a good list of books to find and read because of how I feel about the other titles on it, the ones I’ve already read!

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