04 June 2009

A summer reading story

We don't have a TV and we don't have Internet and the market down the block doesn't rent DVDs, so what I mostly do is read. I read about infidelity among Muslims in Egypt and obesity-causing food additives and New Jersey wedding bands in the '80s. It's not because I'm unhappy where I am.

I have come to Boston for the summer ostensibly to work, but really to be free, to not be at home. I live in a third-floor walk-up above an ice cream shop and walk to the office. I see Cambridge Street in the twilight after the mosquitoes have tired and I get lost in Coolidge Corner and I don't tell anyone where I'm going most of the time, but I come out all right. My first week I buy a stove-top espresso maker online because it seems like the thing you do when you work, buy coffee and make it for yourself.

I borrow Alice Munro's THE LOVE OF A GOOD WOMAN from the bookshelf of the girl I'm subletting from, an architecture student with a wide, flat drafting table. I borrow Andy Warhol's diaries too but don't finish.

I read Robert Benchley and James Thurber for now, Faulkner for later. I read EUGENE ONEGIN and want to take it apart in a paper. I read PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT and don't. I read Nicholson Baker's VOX in one sitting in the library, sunk down in an overstuffed chair, and feel like I'm getting away with something.

I read after I've left subpar improv shows and Philip Glass operas. I read on the grass while the chattering high school students pass. I read in the Coop and leave without buying anything. I probably brought a book to my first and only Red Sox game, but I don't remember what it was. I even read walking to work until I fall one day, then I stop. There is a heat wave and I read facing into the window fan that blows the hot air from the street into my face.

My housemate reads in the bathtub with a beer between drafts of a paper on Martin Amis' TIME'S ARROW. My fellow intern skips dinner and reads giant design books she gets at MIT. My sister reads my letters and sends me back brightly colored tales of what mischief a camp of 6-year-olds can get into.

At the end of the summer I come home sad. I read EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED on the patio and dream about going back to school. In the fall I will take that Faulkner class and struggle to read anything for fun around editing articles and conjugating verbs. My housemate will move to Iowa and the next time I go to Boston, it will be just for a concert, and not to stay. A few summers later I walk past my old building and it looks exactly as I remember. On the way back to New York I read THE NATURAL.


Marjorie said...


Jenny said...

Oh Ellen. I should have sent you the photo long ago (I am so terrible at sending photos on time!). Check your email. :) -Jenny