Packing for the beach
With a week of vacation from the paragraph factory stretching ahead, an urgent planning question moves to the fore: what books to take to the beach.*
I’ve just finished The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly, a murder mystery with a quite satisfactory and accurate portrayal of a newspaper in decline. Another along that line would be good.
Also in hand are John McWhorter’s What Language Is and James W. Pennebaker’s The Secret Life of Pronouns, sent by publishers for review.
It might be a good time to revisit a favorite, the way I reread Barchester Towers every few years to revel in Trollope’s best work. I went back to Northanger Abbey during last winter’s trip to England, rediscovering how sly Austen is. Waugh’s Scoop? A Barbara Pym? Anne Tyler’s Accidental Tourist? It’s decades since I read Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter. Difficult choices.
A Book of Good Intentions, brought along because one ought to read it but left resolutely untouched the entire span, is requisite. Henry James should fit nicely.
Something in biography and history, something with a little meat on it, would be good. The last time we went to Ocean City, I was in Ved Mehta’s memoir of working with William Shawn at The New Yorker, an unwitting demonstration of the limitations of hero worship. I’ll need to check the library to see what’s out.
You may be muttering among yourselves that even for his appetite for books, that’s more than he can get through in a week. Quite right, and I intend to spend some time walking on the beach and might even go into the water up to my shins (taking care always to preserve my pallor).
The point is that you should always have a reserve of unread books at hand, your ever-normal granary, your stock of acorns set aside for the winter. Provide, provide!
*I hesitate even to get on an elevator without a book in hand.