I used to put books aside especially for the summer, knowing I'd have more time and feel more relaxed, less stressed, more open to the long loving voyage with an accomplished author at the helm. The late novelist Sheila Roberts once told me that she found nothing so sensually delicious in life as setting one word next to another. For me, that pleasure radiated especially from each summer book I plunged into and surrounded myself with.
In the old days I could happily sprawl somewhere enjoying one big fat summer read after another, books like The Name of the Rose, R.W.B. Lewis's biography of Edith Wharton, Hugo Claus's The Sorrow of Belgium, Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, Rebecca West's Black Lamb, Grey Falcon. Proust? As easy as rollin' on the river.
But now, even short books don't tend to hold me and I wander from book to book and back again more aimlessly than during the year. It's the soughing of wind in the giant old trees behind our house, the arresting bird calls, the distant hoot of a train. All of that makes me want to nap. Or brew some more iced coffee. Or play with the dogs in the yard. Or just enjoy the smells of freshly-cut grass, viburnums, lilacs, lilies. It doesn't take much to send me off on reveries independent of the books I'm reading.
I'm currently trying to get through a handful of books, reading them all more slowly than I would have years ago, because it takes so long to re-enter each book's orbit after having wandered off. They include Zola's The Human Beast, a memoir by Mary Gordon, an architect's meditations on Florence, Elizabeth Taylor's novel Angel, John Julian Norwich's book on the Papacy, and two or three others I've already forgotten.
Summer is oozing away and I'm hoping to finish them. Soon. Or whatever. Wait -- is that a hummingbird by the roses of sharon....?
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