Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Long Vacation (What One Read)

Some vacations are structured around activity--The zoo, Coca-Cola Museum, lunch in Centennial Park, Braves Game (this was me last summer)--but others get noted for their decided lack of activity. Which brings me to this summer's escape for the Scapellato family: Edisto Beach.

Kids and wife have the beach. I have unrestricted reading and writing. I'm sure I'm a grave disappointment (easy on the "grave" part) to my dermatologist, but every morning upon waking, I got to spend my morning reading in a chair oceanside. When the sun spread her light in the full splendor of afternoon, I wrote in the cool of the camper. After 14 days, I have one hell of a tan, I made it through eight books, and I'm off to a good start on the next novel project.

So here's my fully eclectic catalogue of 09 beach reads:

Manhunt by James Swanson: page-turning account of the 12-day hunt for John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln. Riveting. Mary Surratt was the first woman hanged in the U.S. I didn't know that.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby: spot-on British speech, genius observational humor, Hornby is a master at character. When I was sixteen, I would've been in love with Jess.

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult: impossible to put down. Riveting plot even if I didn't exactly buy it (teachers are notoriously critical of novels about teachers). Ending was jaw-dropping, too, even if I didn't buy that either. But did I enjoy the book? Absolutely. Picoult is very good at spinning a yarn.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: A writer's writer. Jaw-dropping writing on every page. A plot so bizarre and beautiful, one wonders how on earth she came up with this.

Tin Roof Blow Down by James Lee Burke: wow, the guy can write about the Louisiana. He is to the Bayou what Pat Conroy is to the Lowcountry. Except Burke writes of the hardscrabble life of Dave Robicheaux, his steely PI. Dialogue is some of the best I've read. Someone called his writing Faulknerian, and somehow, oddly enough, I agree. Beneath the guns and car chases, there is something visceral and soul-moving about the people of this place.

Buffalo Lockjaw by Greg Aames: First novel, a must read. I'm Aames' newest fan. A piece of art with angled prose that I kept reading aloud to Sara, much to her irritation (she was always reading her own book, and my high praises were an interruption). This is a novel I wish I'd written. A moving story about one Thanksgiving in Buffalo with a man caring for his dying mother that was equal parts dark and hilarious. Weird, I know. Superb title.

Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons: I'm not supposed to read this type of stuff, but I am a friend of Annie's, and I love every word she has ever uttered. I'd read her grocery list with rapture. I don't which she writes better, the Lowcountry or Atlanta. If I had to say, this novel is one of the better ones.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: a classic. My daughter was reading it, so I borrowed it. Finished it in one sitting. A beautiful story I knew nothing about: Danish Jews trying to escape to Sweden. Well-deserving of its classic status. Exquisite writing with heart-stopping impact. I did not know that Danish scientists came up with cocaine and pig's blood to throw off the German dogs from finding hidden jews. Such desperation. And it worked.

And so here are the vital stats on my most recent life escape:

14 days
8 books
2861 pages read
35 pages written

My idea of a vacation.

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