Monday, September 3, 2012

The Books I Meant to Read This Summer

Labor Day always holds a kind of melancholy for me -- growing up, it was the night before the school started, and the crickets would chirp as I lit a sparkler saved from the Fourth of July and said goodbye to summer -- so tonight I find myself thinking of what I never got around to doing this summer. Like uploading my photos from my Europe trip, or writing that blog post going into my Pint-Sized show in more detail. And for some reason, I feel compelled to compile a list of all the books I meant to read this summer and never did.
  • Something by Charles Dickens: I was going to read a Dickens novel (maybe Bleak House?) when I was in London, as it is the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth and the place where I stayed was around the corner from the Dickens museum. As it was, I packed Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus instead, barely got through a few chapters (when I'm traveling, I always think I'm going to read more than I actually do) and haven't touched a Dickens novel in years.
  • Other People We Married, by Emma Straub: Straub's debut novel, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures, is coming out tomorrow, and as you may recall I'm super excited to read it. But I wanted to read her first book, a short story collection, beforehand.
  • Wallflower at the Orgy and Crazy Salad, by Nora Ephron: Last summer, when I was writing Pleiades and seeking resources about the early '70s, the fabulous Megan Cohen told me to read  Ephron's first two collections of essays. I never got around to it, but when Ephron passed away in June, and several tributes mentioned just how terrific her journalism was, I publicly pledged (on Twitter) that I would read these essay collections this summer. Especially because I would also be revising Pleiades. But I couldn't find these books in any bookstore, and now I'm about to give the revised version of Pleiades to my publisher, and am irrationally freaking out like, "If only I'd read Ephron, my play would be better!"
  • Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu and Orson Welles: Hello Americans, by Simon Callow: These biographies have gotten terrific reviews; Welles is a fascinating figure for anyone who cares about theater and cinema; and I'm writing a play about a 1940s Hollywood starlet and, lest we forget, Welles married Rita Hayworth. Plus, I turned 25 this summer, Orson Welles was 25 when he made Citizen Kane, and I want to figure out how the hell he did it. All compelling reasons to read these books... but it hasn't happened yet.
  • Cultural Amnesia, by Clive James: I've had this erudite tome of essays on my bedside table for over a year now and keep telling myself that I will read one essay per night before bed. Then, when I was in London, the story broke that Mr. James has leukemia and does not expect that he can fight it much longer. As it is always nicer to read and appreciate someone's work while he is still alive (instead of saying, as I did with Ephron, "Oh, I always meant to read her book, and now she's dead!"), I recommitted myself to reading this. But it's a rare night when I actually do read one of these essays before bed.
My parents would probably tell me to focus on what I accomplished this summer and stop beating up on myself, but Labor Day is a time for melancholy, and I have no sparklers or crickets at my disposal, so let me think, with a sigh, of these unread books.

No comments: