The New Yorker summer fiction issue arrived this week, which got me thinking about summer reading. In my California days, summer reading meant something along the lines of reading The Da Vinci Code by a hotel pool while sipping on an over-priced piña colada at 11AM without guilt. In other words, summer reading was a blissful reprieve from standards, both literary and moral, observed in other seasons.
Summer reading this year has meant something altogether different. Here in England it is the run up to the longest day of the year, and we have been enjoying daylight until nearly 10PM for weeks. On those mid-week nights when husband is in London and I am in the Cotswolds on my own, I retire to bed by 9:30PM for a benign menage a trois with my French companions, Marcel and his precocious, mommy- obsessed protagonist of In Search of Lost Time, to enjoy some day lit summer reading. In reading Proust I am not abandoning my customary June relaxation of standards but rather making good on an old—2009—new year’s resolution to finally read the fabled author. (The truth is I wanted to read Alain de Boton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, but I didn’t feel entitled to do so without having attempted Proust first.) The novel is slow going, dense stuff but not without its rewards. There was the madeleine incident early on and, later in Combray, I recognized the compulsion to capture a place — the landscape and seasons and walking through them—that I feel about the Cotswolds.
Husband and I will be in the Lake District this weekend for the longest day of the year, enjoying an early celebration of our ninth anniversary. The hotel in Elterwater is a converted country house with the most perfect lounge for reading, complete with comfortable chairs, a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding fells, and a kettle and biscuits. (Even husband, who finds movie watching to be a far superior form of leisure to reading—in which he only indulges via The Economist and Hollywood biographies—can read for hours in this lounge.) I may even indulge myself and pack the Alain de Boton, never mind the fact that I’m not even half-way through the Proust.