I love summer for a thousand reasons, beginning and ending with the fact that it is not winter. But summer is also when many people read more for pleasure than for work or for school (or both!). My first such book this summer is The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa.
When I was an undergraduate English student, it wasn’t unusual to have to read 20 or more books in a semester, and many more if I did the additional critical background reading. For some reason, the Spring semester of my junior year I took six classes. I would have to look at my transcript, but my recollection was that two of them were fiction surveys. On top of the school work, I was doing all kinds of part-time and freelance work. I was stringing for a couple of newspapers, reading news at night for a local radio station, and was the managing editor of my college weekly newspaper. When the semester ended, I did what I always did and went home to my summer jobs. It wasn’t unusual for me to be on campus one day and be behind the cash register at a convenience store back home the very next day.
I remember being incredibly tired that year as my semester ended and my summer began. I jumped right into working 50+ hours a week, but a few weeks into it I just crashed, and quit one of the two jobs just to give myself a little break. It turned out the best part of the break I gave myself was to pick up Vargas Llosa’s book, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. I remember getting a few dozen pages into it and thinking to myself, “Wait. Am I supposed to take this ‘seriously’?” It was too fun, too funny, too sexy. It seemed like Vargas Llosa had more fun writing it than I was having reading it, and I was having a blast. I read more of Vargas Llosa over the years, confident that he was indeed to be taken ‘seriously” (and of course he has written more sober books). Still, I have to admit to finally letting go of some of that sense of guilty pleasure when he won the Nobel Prize a few years ago and the committee ponderously referred to “his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.”
Well, sure, I guess there’s that too.
Excuse me while I get back to some summer reading.