Sunday, 26 June 2011
I know that has Summer has come when.....
with the words
I can drive onto campus at 11.00am and find a parking space.
Usually you have to be there well before nine. The pleasure of not having to fight for a place is immense.
One universal signal, however, is the appearance in the Sunday papers of the lists of Summer Reading and this morning, the first really warm day we've had this year, The Sunday Times has provided fifty fiction and fifty non-fiction choices along with a handful of audio and children's suggestions.
I always pour over these lists with real interest. The New Year equivalent, when people are asked for their 'books of the year', are terribly 'worthy' and I don't believe for a moment that half of them have ever really been read. They have just been chosen to make the people recommending them sound good. These Summer recommendations are different. Oh, very few people actually come out with the real 'beach reads', but what you do get are suggestions of good, solid readable fiction; the sort that will see you through the next six months or so whatever the weather.
Amongst this morning's list there are several books that I have earmarked for any free days that I might discover hidden in my diary, including Ann Patchett's new novel, State of Wonder and Jane Harris's story of an English spinster who attaches herself to the family of a painter in the Glasgow of 1888, Gillespie and I. There are also a couple that I seem to have missed when they came out, but which look very interesting. I've enjoyed Justin Cartwright's earlier books, so I shall definitely see if I can find a copy of Other People's Money and Cynthia Ozick's Foreign Bodies set in post-war Paris sounds fascinating as well.
Reading through the list made me think, however, about all the plans I have made for Summer Reading over the years and about how rarely I have been able to stick to them. When I was studying or teaching there was always a reading list for the following term that needed attention and each year I promised myself that I would get started early and make sure that I didn't end up having to rush. After all, how many people had the privilege of a working life where reading fiction was a central activity? How many would have killed for such a life? But it never worked out like that. There was always something on the library shelf, or something I'd been storing up all year that found its way into my hands instead. And I don't suppose this year will be any different. I might state my intention of reading certain books, but I strongly suspect that the same thing will happen as in the past. I have eight books that have to be read for one reason or another before the second weekend in September, all excellent novels in their own right, but I don't mind betting that I shall be desperately trying to finish them at the last moment just as in previous years.
Am I alone in this? Or are you all far better at meeting your objectives than me. If so, what is your secret? Please, do share it.