24 April 2008

More Summer Reading: Is it the book or the season?

My memories of summer reading can be sorted into two categories: There are books I love, which I happen to have read over the summer, and there are books I enjoyed reading in the summer but wouldn't necessarily say I really liked.

The first time I read ANNA KARENINA was one hotter than normal May -- or maybe I just remember it like that. Preoccupied by upcoming exams, orchestra concerts and a crush who was all too oblivious, I escaped into 19th-century Russia, reading it almost entirely on time I should have been using to do other things. I was loath to return it to the library when I finished; I wanted to crack it open and read it all over again. A few years later, at high-school graduation, my friend Will gave me a copy which I treasure still. (And yes, I blog about the book too much.)

A few years later, I was at summer camp when my mom sent me a copy of Louis de Bernieres' CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN. (In the note she stuck in the book she admitted, "I can't get [star of the movie adaptation] Nicolas Cage's droopy eyes out of my mind." Tee hee.) If you asked me to tell you the plot of this book or the names of the characters, I wouldn't be able to do it. But just picturing the cover sends me straight back to the un-air-conditioned dorm where I read on the top bunk when my roommate was asleep, the smooth feel of the pages as I turned them and the escapades that regularly interrupted my reading. If I were to pick it up again, I would still associate it with summer, even though the book -- a World War II epic about a Greek island -- has nothing summery about it. (Or does it? Somebody help me out here.)

So what books remind you of summer?


heidikins said...

John Steinbeck: East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row. Even though they aren't necessarily summery. Ages ago I read all three the week after school ended, and now every summer I must re-read at least one of them.

Great post!

nikki said...

Graham Greene - I went through a Greene kick during my first summer as a full-time D.C. commuter. I started with The Power and the Glory and made my way through The End of the Affair, The Human Factor, The Heart of the Matter, Orient Express, and The Quiet American in the weeks to follow.

What translation of Anna Karenina do you recommend?

Ellen said...

Heidi - I'm ashamed to say I have only read one Steinbeck book (OF MICE AND MEN), and that only because it was assigned to me. (My friend Will, mentioned above, is a Steinbeck superfan.) I might tackle THE GRAPES OF WRATH this summer though... here's hoping!

Nikki - I can do slightly better with Graham Greene; THE HEART OF THE MATTER is one of three books I've read of his. Have you ever read TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT? It's about a guy who gets swept up in a trip planned by his eccentric aunt -- maybe "light" Greene but I enjoyed it.

As for Madame Karenina: I've read both the Constance Garnett and Pevear/Volokhonsky Oprah-approved translations, and to be honest I didn't notice much of a difference. I would go for the newer one (P/V) if only because I remember it got pretty good reviews. But I don't think there's as much of a divergence between them as, say, the old and new translations of BEOWULF and THE ODYSSEY.

Jess said...

Gone with the Wind reminds me of summer. But actually, I'm not sure why. Maybe because it takes place in the south where it's always hot?

bookchronicle said...

Your post reminded me of my first experience with Anna Karenina (also during the summer) after fate seemed to be prodding me to get around to it. Usually during the summer I find myself stumbling back to Melissa Bank and Judy Blume.