The handful of people who read this blog have noted that my last post was April 10th. That’s three months ago. The weather has a remarkable way of improving in those months, and we have already experienced what seems like a heck of a lot of summer. That’s sometimes hard to imagine whey you’re stuck in April.
So… a short post to break the ice. I have read two books for pleasure so far this summer. The first one was “The Wapshot Scandal” by John Cheever. Perfect summer stuff. Cheever’s forte is short stories, so his novels seem all over the place, but the essential theme of this one (as in “The Wapshot Chronicle”) is change. Written at a time when consumerism was just taking hold firmly, the Wapshot books are an homage to simpler times, with a knowledge of what’s being gained and what’s being lost, funny and sad at the same time. Think of “Lake Wobegone” without the cuteness. If you can imagine Garrison Keillor as a heavy drinker with latent homosexual tendencies and a much huger gift for writing, you’ve got John Cheever.
The other book I have read so far is “A Long Way Gone“, by Ishmael Beah, a Memoir of a Boy Soldier. Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980 and as a 12 year old child was caught up in the brutal civil war. Eventually he was forced to fight for one side – it really doesn’t matter which – and was fed a steady diet of pills, cocaine, marijuana, and assorted ingredients which rendered him insensitive to the horrific suffering he endured, and perpetrated. It hardly seems fair to criticize the book, but literature with a capital “L” it ain’t. It reads artlessly, and is emotionally flat, as if Beah is somehow still working out his stance to events. At some point it becomes difficult to want to read on, since there is no particular shape to the story. Precisely because it is so artless and “honest” I predict the book will become a huge presence on many high school book lists.