Newsweek's latest cover artfully blares, "WHAT TO READ NOW." I say artfully because it's designed to look like a shelf of hardcover book spines. And the background picture features someone reading. On a beach.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a case where interdepartmental communication broke down because, if you flip to WHAT YOU SHOULD BE READING NOW, it's all things you should be reading to educate yourself about our culture: books on financial swindling (#1! Anthony Trollope!), 9/11, the environment, poverty, class inequity, Oppenheimer, and so on. In which case, forget the beach--the picture on the cover should have shown earnest graduate students gathered in a non-chain coffee shop arguing and not listening to each other.
On the hyper-hip and hyper-didactic list, I've read only three in their entirety: #21 Twain's Mississippi books (M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i), #30 THE LOST by Daniel Mendelsohn and #41 THE BOTANY OF DESIRE by Michael Pollan, all of which I loved. Flannery O'Connor also made the list, and "Revelation" is perfect. Good, right? I should then read the entire list?
Not so fast, buddy.
I've also started to read and been completely unable to get through three: #10 GOD: A BIOGRAPHY by Jack Miles (interesting premise but just...couldn't...do...it), #16 LEAVES OF GRASS by Walt Whitman (Whitman sings the body electric ad nauseaum, especially if you don't find his body electric, even metaphorically), and #31 GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson (too many passages about the old-codger dad watching his young son sentimentally--this young son never threw fits or whined or refused to eat his vegetables).
And finally, the grad school dropout in me reacts viscerally to an article billed in two neat boxes as "Literature" "Enlightenment." Ugh. I'll crouch in Neanderthal darkness, thank you very much.
Anything on your oughta list this summer?
You won't catch me at the beach kickin' it with collected interviews on Japan's 1995 sarin-gas attack.