Summer Reads

Until this summer, I had no idea that summer reads was a thing. I also see many of you do summer reading challenges. I’m enjoying this summer a lot. It’s a mix of activity, -with the teens at home, and me taking them to places-, and relaxation, -with week days in which I can enjoy a brunch by myself, with the company of books, my best friends.

I recently finished reading The Illustrated Man, by Bradbury. I chose it for the XX century classic, for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

It’s no secret that I love Bradbury. I must say I thought illustrated meant educated, as in the Illustration period. However, it meant a man whose torso is illustrated with tattoos that tell stories. But I won’t give anymore up. This book looks bigger than The Ambassadors, right?, but it’s 292 comfortable print pages, and it’s a short story compilation. While The Ambassadors seems short, but it’s 375 pages of smallish print. I read The Ambassadors in Spanish at my Kindle, which for some books like this, was more comfortable to me.

The Illustrated Man is a fast read. But the stories will stay with you. Most are ‘good disturbing’, there’s lots of space travel, life in Mars, astronauts. I ought to say that his sf feels homey, there’s nostalgia, and philosophical and existential questions. There’s also his unmistakable warmth in all this. A profound love for humankind.

It’s possible I’m idealizing him, as media seems to have made a saint of Kenue Reeves at the moment. But who can tell me of a writer who stayed married to his first and only wife for 57 years? He seems to have been a good man, a good American.

And I have to make a correction. Bradbury himself said he didn’t write science fiction. I’m not a die hard sf fan, but I like me some sf here and there. I may enjoy Bradbury tremendously because of how peculiar his sf is:

First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time—because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.

It’s true that his short stories couldn’t happen, not because of the technological advances, -some which could become a reality-, but the moral and philosophical scenarios are, as he claims, fantastical, mythical if you wish. It’s the outer space theme that borrows from sf, what makes us think of them as such.

My brunch explained: I believe we are all food and health nuts! We all have crazy ideas, or diverse ideas of what’s good, bad, healthy, unhealthy. I just love food. And good food. Like good literature, much of it is an acquired taste. It also has to do with your upbringing, your experiences in life, and your curiosity and imagination.

Some read only one genre type of books, eat from a limited range of foods. That’s not me! I truly believe I experience other cultures through food. I’m always up to try something new. I also like certain flavors close to home. The picture shows a spinach and goat cheese omelette, and an arugula, corn and blue cheese salad. The bread has some cream cheese and spice plum jam a friend made and gave us last Christmas.

I’m also half way into How Should We Then Live? I’ve read Shaeffer’s Escape from Reason, which is shorter and presents part of what this longer book does, in a concise and quite deft manner. My second time with Escape from Reason, I realized how much of what he says in it I’ve retained, and how all in it helps me understand and place art, music, literature, and culture. Both books are useful if one wants to understand past centuries world views, and how we’ve arrived to our current one.

My next books would be a P.D. James book that I got from the library. I did this after I read Carol’s review of another of her titles. Some of her short stories. Not Death Comes to Pemberly, -I’ve heard from good friends it’s not up to par-. Given that I love language, I should read Speak Memory. This is Nabokov’s biography. I’ve read some of his books and reviews of this one, and it promises to be very interesting. Has anyone read it? What are your thoughts?

20 thoughts on “Summer Reads

  1. Hi Silvia! That lunch (or is it brunch?) of yours looks yummy and reminds me that I skipped dinner tonight! Thanks for linking to that review of P.D. James — I popped over and read it & found it very interesting. Many years ago I was an avid fan of P.D’s but, for some reason or other stopped reading her about mid-way through her career. I do have great memories, however, of her earlier work and think you might really enjoy her. She’s also written what I hear is a great survey of detective fiction (I’ve had my copy for years and haven’t read it yet, although I REALLY mean to! Some day).
    Nabokov’s “Speak Memory” has always intrigued me — it’s been on my TBR list for years. I think I’m basically too lazy. Nabokov is a very great writer, but I find him totally intimidating. I think I’ll wait for you to read it before I take the plunge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, in the preface to my book by P.D James, she talks about her love of the golden era mystery writers. I’m also interested in that survey.

      I read Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading, and I found it very readable. It’s a clear book about an unclear situation. You always know what you are not supposed to know for certain. The prisoner is not supposed to know what he’s accused of, or what will happen to him. Some scenes are surreal, but we know they are surreal. I found it more direct and much better written than Kafka’s The Trial, -though that book has a place, specially for us in our young years. I read it when young, I read it a few years ago, and I preferred it in my youth.
      I’m not sure I can do other Nabokov’s titles. I know what he’s doing with Lolita, for example, but I will drown. I just can’t. My daughters are almost 13 and 15. It’s too close home for me to take the distance and go beyond the first layer of the chosen theme.

      But Nabokov is very visual. He writes with colors and he paints pictures. But I am still intimidated. We will see. I hope to read and tell.

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      • I can’t remember (one of those senior moments!) but wasn’t Nabokov an amateur artist of some type? If so, that would certainly explain the visual quality to his work. I think I mentioned in an earlier chat (or did YOU mention it? Senior moment again!) but the notes of the literature lectures that he gave while teaching at Cornel are adorned with his doodles. I’ve had the facsimile edition copies of the lectures for many years and, aside from the fact the lectures are great, the little drawings are fun.
        I am shockingly ill-read in many ways — I’ve never read Kafka. Must get around to it.
        I know what you mean about Lolita. There are certain topics/themes/subjects that I can’t deal with and I won’t willingly read any fiction that deals with them. As for Lolita, I read it many, many, many years ago, just to say I read it. I wasn’t impressed but then, I doubt if I understood exactly what Mr N was attempting to do, literature-wise. I’ve thought about re-reading it now that I’m on this other side of a lifetime but ….. many other books are calling my name.

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        • I mentioned his lecture. I too have an edition with his drawings. He believed that is important to map the stories, to know the structure of the books, -and he, as a writer himself, uncovers this in Austen novels, for example, which helps us enjoy and appreciate what we read.
          He was an entomologist, translator, and apt chess player.

          I’m three pages into Speak Memory, and I am floored by it. He is not just telling us about his life, but in a few lines he is philosophizing about when identity appears, and the way he writes is voluptuously and painfully beautiful. I forgot how much I care for this author.
          But I won’t reread Lolita. This is better, it’s him remembering and thinking aloud. And he has a sense of humor and a story to tell, the history of his story. (I believe he lived a very interesting life and had mad skills to tell us about it.

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  2. Summer is a time when I can tackle more substantial books because of the time off work. I don’t know what I’ll read but it will probably be big! As for Nabokov, it’s a long time since I read this one but I remember it being very impressive – his writing is wonderful.

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    • Cheers to time off and substantial books!
      Nabokov writing is wonderful, yes, he taps on very primeval emotions and experiences and fleshes them in beautiful and deep language. He is Russian in the ability to make his language feel like flesh and blood.

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  3. Yes, Death Comes to Pemberley is uneven, I grant you, but I enjoyed aspects of it nevertheless (https://wp.me/s2oNj1-death). Her dystopian Children of Men worked better for me, however; the film of the same name is good but expands a lot of the action in a way that many of the subordinate themes didn’t come across to me when I watched it.

    I’ve some short stories by Bradbury to read some time, don’t know when but I might squeeze them in before summer’s done!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve read The Children of Men, and watched the movie too! It was fun. I then realized having watched the movie ages ago, but it felt fresh again, and relevant.

        I’m trying to go to your post, but it keeps telling me ‘oops, not found’ ???

        I wanted to say I enjoyed your review and it made a lot of sense. It was really well written, lots of details. I agree with you in that the movie is a loose adaptation, but good in its own category.

        I loved what you wrote about the names and possible symbolism. And I wanted to add that “Miriam” was Moses sister, the one who made sure he won’t be killed but adopted by Pharaoh’s wife.

        You said you preferred P.D. James’s dystopia, non fiction, or historical fiction books, and that you had good crime or mysteries in line, waiting for you. For me it’d be early to say, having only read this one, and four of her short mystery stories. But the stories were very powerful. A mix of Shirley Jackson and Agatha Christie. I found I could read more of her for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It may say ‘oops not found’ because I’ve now rescheduled it to post in a few days from now because I thought it could do with another outing — and because I’m away from home and doing some catch-up reading overlooking the inspiration for Christie’s Evil Under the Sun! Thanks for your kind words about the review and for the reminder about the added significance of Miriam, I’d forgotten that.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Glad to hear you have not lost the post and looking forward to that reposting it. I meant every word of praise. You went to the book with an invaluable knowledge of it. Your context and review made my reading of it more rounded and much more satisfying.

            Enjoy your catching up reading, Chris. I will be here, always looking forward to reading your posts.

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    • Children of Men is the book my friend recommends. I’m currently in the second short story by her. I like her. I will read Children… and watch the movie for good measure. 🙂

      Bradbury won’t disappoint, I am pretty sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, just saying, I finished “A Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories”, and found it truly good. Classy, well written, true to form and obviously, a bit more modern than Agatha C or Sayers. I’ve just moved to “The Sirens of Titan” and “Speak Memory”, and have “The Children of Men” waiting for me at my Kindle!

    Dystopia and mystery are such great genres for the summer, imo.

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  5. You’ve mentioned two authors whom I’ve always meant to read more of, Bradbury and Schaeffer. I’ve read one Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I wasn’t really captured by it but I remember reading him in my teens and enjoying him so I’ve always wanted to give him another chance. Interesting quote. I’m always blurry as to what constitutes sci-fi, fantasy, etc. And, of course, Nabakov, of which I’ve read nothing but have good intentions. Thanks for expanding my horizons!

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    • Cleo. Something Wicked is YA, very good, but not as spectacular as his The Illustrated Man, or The Martian Chronicles. Either won’t disappoint. Given that they are short stories, try one and I bet you won’t stop there. (Lol, if you do, fair enough. I just had to make the distinction, cause I feel he is best in his short stories).

      I also recommend Escape from Reason. It’s shorter and it has more impact to me than How Should… And at YouTube there’s a 10 episodes free series that corresponds exactly to the book.

      Nabokov reigns supreme for language lovers. He has that charm of the Eastern and Western man of the beginning of the XX century. Aristocrat and exhile, Russian and American, so camaleonic, with a penchant for nature and zest for life.

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  6. Hola.
    Yo he leído poco a Bradbury, pero lo que leí me gustó mucho. No me esperaba esa poesía en su prosa. El otro día hablaban en La Cultureta de un libro sobre él escrito por Garci: https://www.ondacero.es/programas/mas-de-uno/la-cultureta/la-cultureta-5×39-viaje-estelar-a-marte-con-ray-bradbury-garci-y-torres-dulce_201906215d0cb2f20cf2a19e09fa159c.html.
    He vuelto a poner a Bradbury en mi lista de libros cercanos en el tiempo para leer, y el libro de Garci en el de libros a comprar en algún momento.

    Y no, no merece la pena leer Death Comes to Pemberbely. Muy flojo. No veo a los personajes de Austen reflejados, por mucho que se llamen igual.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Maria. Bradbury es genial. Si mi hermana viene el verano que viene, la encargo el libro de Garci.

      Y los otros dos libros de P.D James sí me gustaron. Creo que se luce más con los misterios que con el famoso Pemberly.

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