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Summer Reading

I love summer. I was on the beach yesterday, and it was beautiful, sunny, breezy. After the beach, I went home and watched a few auditions for an upcoming project on Skype. Skype auditions! I was relaxed at home in my chair, in front of my computer, the summer breeze was blowing through the window. I didn’t have to go anywhere, I felt wonderfully lazy, and it was great.

Summer! It’s evening as I write this, and outside, there are two comfortable chairs on the front porch, there is a hammock on the roof deck, there is fresh mint growing in a planter for making a pitcher of lemonade, or mojitos. This mint is growing so aggressively that I feel forced to make a cocktail out of it, for the sake of the other herbs. These are the things that are calling to me.

And reading. In summer, it’s the best.

Have you read …

Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis? This is one of the few truly funny novels. Funny like A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s about this guy who is handed a pamphlet which contains the Secrets of Atlantis. Or maybe they’re just scribbles and triangles. The guy, Jimmerson, believes that with this information, he’s ready to start a religion. One sect spins off into another, they gather new eccentric members: dandies, con-men, large men with pulsating mustaches, and no women, really. They perform rituals, they argue, they split up, they write nasty pamphlets about each other, they go to a mobile home compound in Texas for an exciting finale. Portis wrote True Grit, and has a way with words, particularly descriptions of strange people and strange things that are strangely familiar.

Stoner by John Williams? No, not that John Williams. No, not that kind of Stoner. Stoner is a farmer’s son from Missouri who falls in love with literature, becomes a college professor, and has a fairly disappointing life. He marries the wrong woman, gets embroiled in English Department politics, never really amounts to much. But he’s a kind of hero. The story of Stoner’s life is told at a brisk pace, hitting the various low points (and a high point or two) chapter by chapter. Again, like Portis, the sentences are beautiful, the descriptions are unblinking, stark, but somehow poetic. The situations are gripping and almost unbearably frustrating. The novel is inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. The author described it as “an escape into reality,” and it is, a most surprising and touching kind of escapism.

I really loved those two books. Right now I’m reading The Information by James Glieck, which is a history of information. Talking Drums, Telegraphs, Dictionaries, The Internet, and more. It looks at the world from a new angle, and fills me with wonder every time I pick it up. He’s also a great writer, and I’m reading it slowly … using it as training for a concert coming up next season with scientists from the Institute for Quantum Computing. I’m expanding my brain with this one.

Along with Glieck, I’ll be reading a few beach novels, Scando-Crime, probably. I can’t get enough of that stuff. The cultures are so organized that the murders seem especially gruesome. Kind of like when an Alien pops out of someone in a clean, sanitary operating room.