Quiet Desperation

Shelf awareness leads to summer getaways


F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow fast in the movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with summer.”

What better way is there to embrace summer than to walk a book to the bedroom, backyard, or beach and, albeit temporarily, leave this often troubled world and discover other lives, places, and adventures?

Choosing what to read can be overwhelming. Bookstores are brimming with books. Libraries too. My grocery store sells books.

Ever helpful, I thought I’d provide some suggestions in the form of a quiz.

All of the summaries (get it?) below refer to books and plays that take place entirely or partially in one or more summers, including a shameless self-promotion.

The answers are given at the end of the column.

1. Fitzgerald’s quote comes from which one of his novels? The one about a character named Gatsby or a character named Gatsby?

2. Demetrius and Lysander both want Hermia. With Nick Bottom, Tom Snout and Snug.

3. In New Orleans, Mrs. Violet Venable asks a doctor to perform a lobotomy on her niece. (In the film version, Venable was portrayed by Katharine Hepburn.)

4. Take me out to the ballgame. This is a book written by a sportswriter named Kahn.

5. It’s 1942. Hermie, fifteen, is obsessed with an older woman. She’s twenty-two.

6. The final summer of a small town south of Denver before it is scheduled to be demolished on Halloween. A witty art professor, one of the town’s lone remaining residents, manages a general store, becomes involved in a captivating mystery right out of Sherlock Holmes without the British accents. A bookstore that holds a secret, and a dachshund named William. (Hot off the press.)

7. “A delightfully candid memoir about her journey from singing in a Boston church to her unexpected reign as the Queen of Disco.” This, by the way, is a trick question.

8. First published in 1958, this book begat a film that begat a theme song by Percy Faith that was, unfortunately, a Number One hit for nine weeks in 1960.

9. “Carmen got the jeans at a thrift store.” Then the jeans go on a journey.

10. Ray Bradbury, best known for “Fahrenheit 451,” wrote this book about a twelve-year-old boy’s “magical, timeless summer.”

Every spring, newspapers, magazines, and bookstores provide book lovers with lists of books that promise to be perfect summer companions. Generally — not always — the recommended books are new.

I prefer old friends.

1. “The Great Gatsby,” a far better book than movie.

2. William Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Neither film version recommended.

3. Tennessee Williams’ play, “Suddenly, Last Summer,” is very intense.

4. “The Boys of Summer,” Roger Kahn’s non-fiction book about baseball before performance-enhancing drugs.

5. “Summer of ‘42” by Herman Raucher.

6. “Welcome to Earle,” written by Craig Marshall Smith. Available at Amazon.

7. “Ordinary Girl: The Journey.” Donna Summer’s biography.

8. “A Summer Place” by Sloan Wilson.

9. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is a series of young adult novels by Ann Brashares.

10. “Dandelion Wine,” published in 1957, it takes place in 1928.

Mungo Jerry: “In the summertime when the weather is high, you can chase right up and touch the sky.”

(Mungo Jerry’s name comes from a T.S. Eliot poem.)

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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