Summer reading

I usually spend the first few weeks of summer wrapped in the warm familiarity of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  It’s an annual tradition born out of my desire to escape the drudgery of months entrenched in academic reading, and in an effort to recharge my wilted brain with something frivolous.  What could be more frivolous than hanging out poolside, the scent of chlorinated water and sunscreen wafting through the air, a margarita in one hand and a tattered copy of Pride & Prejudice in the other?

Not much, right? 

The prospect of frolicking through Georgian England with the Bennett clan should make me feel all warm and gooey inside.  Yet, this year, it doesn’t appeal to me at all.  It seems my rebellious self is protesting our journey down that well-worn literary path and is intent on lobbying for something new.  I suppose it’s to be expected.  Eventually, even the staunchest chocolate lovers crave a little lemon meringue. 

Of course, this leads to a troubling dilemma: 

What am I going to read poolside this summer?

I toiled with the answer to this question for quite some time.  My reading list usually consists of a gentle mix of historical non-fiction, contemporary (and/or Cold War era) spy novels, and familiar classics.  Occasionally, I will throw in a current commercial bestseller or a traditional whodunit to keep things interesting.   

Of late, I have spent a great deal of time enveloped within worlds created by a few of my favorite authors:  Daniel Silva, John le Carre, and Agatha Christie.  And to be completely honest, I’m a little burned out.  Sure, Silva has a new Allon novel dropping next week, and I pre-ordered a signed copy months ago, but I doubt I will dive into this latest installment anytime soon.

After barely surviving Dan Brown’s Inferno, and given my disinterest in Pride & Prejudice, I was beginning to fear that summer would come and go, leaving me wanting.  Then on a recent lazy Saturday, the answer to my reading dilemma came to me in a burst of unfettered brilliance.  It was one of those scorching days, too hot to venture outdoors before sunset.  My daughter and I were doing what we usually do to beat the heat – watching a Netflix marathon, camped out on the couch, noshing junk food.  

Our poison of choice – Sherlock Holmes. 

We started with the BBC’s Sherlock, meandered through CBS’s alternative take, and ended with Guy Ritchie’s quirky blockbusters.  As I watched, I was struck by the complexity of these two characters (Holmes and Watson) portrayed in vastly different settings and time periods, yet seemingly interchangeable.  I wondered what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have thought of our modern take on his iconic hero and sidekick; how would they stack up to their literary counterparts;  would I even like Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson after growing accustomed to the contemporary screen – big and small – versions?

I decided to find out.

Summer reading dilemma solved.

“Excellent!”…

“Elementary.”

Things I learned this week

I learned this week…

…that I am old.  Or so my health insurance carrier tells me.  I received a very nice letter from them informing me that my recent birthday (the one that isn’t until mid-June) has pushed me into a higher age bracket and, though it pains them greatly, they must raise my rate by 2% effective April 1st.  Bastards.

…that once again, I find that I am a few steps behind everyone else when it comes to discovering new and exciting television.  First, the BBC’s Sherlock, and now PBS’s Downton Abbey.  I need to get with the program.  Both of these shows are well-written, well-acted, and well…just plain brilliant.

…that if civilization as we know it should end and the burden of rebuilding and repopulating the world falls to the brilliant minds of the students in my Sociology class, we are all screwed.   Newt Gringrich’s moon colony might not be such a bad idea after all.

…that my daughter’s sixth grade band is amazing.  I am very proud of her.  She’s come a long way in five months.

…that as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I’ve always had the highest respect for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Not anymore.

…that I really don’t like making my own coffee in the morning.  That makes me sound spoiled, doesn’t it.  Well, I am.  My husband makes coffee every night at bedtime, sets the little timer thing, and BAM!  I have coffee when I roll out of bed at 5 a.m.  He’s out-of-town.  I have to make my own coffee this week.  It sucks.

…that my fat cat has lost weight.  This a good thing for he tipped the scales at 19 lbs at his last vet check up.  I am happy to report that his “high fiber, low-calorie food that costs me a fortune” actually worked.  He’s down to a svelte 15 lbs.  Of course, he thinks he’s starving to death and has taken to counter hopping in search of something left unattended.  I turned around the other night and found him perched by the sink, staring a hole through me.  I was a little scared.  For a minute, I thought he was contemplating my nutritional value.

…that me and old Thomas Hobbes are not going to be good friends.

…that I find reminders of my dad in the strangest places.  This week on my way to the office, I was listening to a 60s themed satellite radio station I like and a song I haven’t heard in years came on.   (Don’t judge me.  I’ve made no secret of my opinion on the music produced during that decade – BEST MUSIC EVER)  As it began to play, recognition took hold,  and all I could see was my father dancing around in his stocking feet, lip syncing the words, and making Groucho Marx faces.  I miss my dad.

***Warning:  Pet peeve of the week***

…that I hate pointless art projects.  I hate pointless art projects even more when they are completely irrelevant to class curriculum.  In Yoga for a Grade, we were instructed to make a new friend (shoot me now), ask them asinine personal questions, and create a collage of their life based on what we learned in a ten minute conversation.  We are expected to present them to the class when next we meet.  Really?  I think I preferred the Down Dog into Plank (hold for one minute), then down and up into Up Dog sequences she made us do – fifteen times in a row! – during the last class.

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Cousin Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) from Downton Abbey.  She is quite warm and loving in her own way – really.