A book for all seasons

Over the last several days I have found myself thinking a lot about picking up Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch.  I’ve been debating the notion of downloading it or walking over to B&N at the top of the park and buying the hardcover.  I even tried to get our DGLM book club to choose it for our next gathering (I was shot down).

“So?” you might be thinking, “You work in publishing.  You read a lot.  It’s a bestseller with a slew of enthusiastic reviews and miles of buzz behind it.  Why wouldn’t you want to read it.”  Seven hundred and eighty-four pages is why!  The thing is a doorstop.  I’ve got a mountain of manuscripts and proposals, a backlog of magazine articles fading in relevance as I type this, a full inbox, and an eight-year-old with more homework every night than I had class work as an undergrad at Columbia.  When, for Pete’s sake, am I supposed to fit in an almost eight hundred page book?

But, still, I’m drawn to it like I’m drawn to pumpkin doughnuts and stews in the fall.  Because it’s the season for big, important books that you can curl up with in your favorite arm chair on a chilly day—wrapped in a warm cardigan, sipping some warm apple cider as you turn the pages—and lose all track of time.  Something about the dip in temperatures and the fact that it’s twilight at 3:30 PM  makes me want to read long and complicated works. 

Clearly, I’m not alone in this.  The publishing world has traditionally scheduled big, important titles in the fall/winter season and beach reads starting in late spring.  And, when I googled “seasonal reading” to see if it’s already been classified as a disorder in the DSM, I came across this piece in the Guardian which…yeah…it seems I’m not at all original (or unique) in my fall reading needs.

What about you?  Do you get all nostalgic for War and Peace or Dune once the flip flops are put away and the jackets come out?


18 Responses to A book for all seasons

  1. Lorelei says:

    If you skip all the pointless and annoying drug use in the book, it’s only four hundred pages. And you know a book is brilliantly edited when you can hear the errors in the audiobook. I’m about three-quarters through, and this sucker better pick up pronto. The beginning made me expect all kinds of mysterious discovery and secrets and adventure. That’s twice I’ve fallen for that lure in fast sequence (the last being Eleanor Catton’s _The Luminaries_). I was spoiled years ago by the long and magnificent _Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell_.

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Literary fiction, at least in it’s modern iterations, has always meant “lots of filler”, which is why I tend to stick to Stephen King and ghost classics of various sorts in the fall. I know you’re overloaded, Miriam, but go ahead and buy the damn thing already. (At an actual bookstore, of course, and in bricks and mortar hardcopy, for crying out loud) Then allow your self 15 or 20 minutes “me time” by the fireplace whenever you can snatch a moment and savor it slowly and in small bites, like fine salami or caviar, although I doubt if it rises to that standard. Then if it’s great you can compare it to whatever you’re struggling with on the job as in, “this isn’t even CLOSE to Donna Tartt,” or vice versa, in which case you’ll be in danger of endangering the rep of the conventional wisdom and will have a whole new set of anxiety to deal with. If nothing else, it should be on your shelf so the cat will have something to hide behind when he’s geting ready to pounce…

  3. Miriam says:

    Sage advice, Kevin. And, Lorelei, I will keep your comments in mind. Both Michael and Rachel are pushing the book here so I may have to hunker down with it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Beach reading is for the childless and those who don’t burn easily. I’m more of a Fall girl year round.

    Inspiring change comes with the fall: the cleansing rain, the shade-shifting leaves, the smell of firewood burning. It seems deeper for some reason, the season. Maybe this is why our reading interests gravitate toward the more serious themes in autumn.

    I’m currently reading The Heretics Daughter, which is definitely insightful – not knowing much about the Salem witch trials to start.

    However, I did get the B&N newsletter on Monday and The Goldfinch stood out. It may get purchased if I find it in the $4.99 bin or if the digital book goes on sale.

  5. Lynn says:

    Miriam, I love autumn and winter for that very reason! I don’t feel guilty that I’m snuggled up in my easy chair in the library, rather than out walking in the cold weather. I do tend to read according to the seasons. I save lighter reading for summer holidays because I know I’m going to be distracted and it’s all right. During the colder months, I want to get into a story that takes me to another place and time and I know I won’t be disturbed.

    I even have a collection of Christmas books that each year I add to. I already have two new Christmas themed books that I’ll start reading around Thanksgiving. What can I say? Let the holidays begin!

    • Miriam says:

      What are your favorite Christmas books, Lynn?

      • Lynn says:

        I have all sorts of Christmas books and collections from Mary & Carol Higgins Clark (Deck The Halls, Silent Night, etc.) to many of the Christmas Chicken Soup For The Soul series, to Charles Dickens Stories for Christmas. It was hard picking favorites, but here they are:

        Favorite Christmas poems: A Cup Of Christmas Tea, and the sequel, A Memory Of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg. And of course, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore.

        Favorite book on the jolly old elf himself: The Autobiography Of Santa Claus as told to Jeff Guinn.

        Favorite non fiction: A Christmas Story by Jay Frankston

        Favorite classic: Christmas Every Day by William Dean Howells

        A favorite bestseller: The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

        What I’ll be reading this season that I didn’t have time for last year (after all, who wants to read Christmas stories once the tree is taken down and the decorations put away) are: The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts, A Christmas Visitor by David Saperstein and George Samerjan, and The Christmas Bus by Melody Carlson.

        Am I a Christmas dork or what? Or are there others who read Christmas themed books during the holidays as well? Gee, Miriam, I never thought to ask that question!

      • Kevin A. Lewis says:

        I’m mildly surprised that you’re so much of a holiday sentimentalist, Miriam; I thought Stacey handled most of the Hallmark Channel stuff around there-and that’s not a snide aside, Stacey; Lynn’s post shows how much money you can shake out of a Christmas tree from a marketing standpoint…

        • Miriam says:

          Kevin, you’re a cynic. I’m not sure I’ve read many Christmas books with the exception of Dickens, Seuss, and David Morrell’s thrilling THE SPY WHO CAME FOR CHRISTMAS, but you are right to note that Christmas books sell like crazy for a few weeks every year and, of course, I’m very interested in what folks read and when.

  6. Lynn says:

    Kevin, no, I’m not one to be easily shaken where the coins drop out of my pocket! If I like something or someone’s work, then I’m more than happy to spend. For example, Maeve Binchy, I have every single book that she wrote. I did that with other authors until the work became less exceptional and it seemed more like milking the cow dry. It seems to happen when authors put out a book or two a year. I have all of Guillaume Musso’s work and his next to the last novel (#9) seems to be going that way. I hope not! It goes without saying, quality over quantity any day!!!

    Oh yeah, one last thing, Kevin. I’ve enjoyed reading many of your comments here on this blog, but don’t be such a Scrooge! You might enjoy a holiday story or two! I suggest A Christmas Story by Jay Frankston. It’s a true story about a Jewish man playing Santa. It’s a short, but powerful story! Cheers and Happy Holidays!!!

  7. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Well, it might interest you to know that Mr. Scrooge here is wrestling with the problem of whether to dedicate the realistic YA historical he’s shopping around to the memory of Karen Carpenter! I’m serious, (and I know it’s tiresome to keep bringing it up, but I’m going somewhere with this) I’ve got a Jewish family celebrating Thanksgiving with an eccentric rich great-aunt who refuses to acknowledge Passover because of her experiences in WWII Berlin, and a small but vital subtext is the mom’s attachment to Karen’s memory and music and a snarky emo daughter who never loses an opportunity to make fun of her for it. And for perspective, check out some of Karen’s holiday songs… She’s WAY more haunting than Bing Crosby ever was, to the point that my wife won’t allow any of her Christmas songs to be played around the house. A dedication after the author’s historical note at the end seems silly, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Am I nuts? A little help here? And don’t worry, I won’t send it to anyone around there, WWII Berlin being the Jurassic Park of the realistic tour and all. Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas and Happy Thanksgivikkah right back at both of ya!

  8. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    By the way, I just read that the last time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah occurred together like this year was 1888 and won’t occur again for 75,000 years or something, which has definitely got to be a Sign In The Sky of some kind or other…

  9. Lynn says:

    Kevin, you won’t find me putting up a Christmas tree without singing along to the Carpenters’ Christmas Collection! There’s nothing more beautiful to get you in the spirit of the holidays than listening to Karen Carpenter sing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”! Tell your wife to at least let you have those two songs!! Who needs Bing or Vic (Damone) when you have Karen and Aaron Neville, but let me keep a little Nat King Cole and Rosemary Clooney just for old times sake!

    I say go for it! It’s your work and you can dedicate it to anyone you want! There are a lot of KC fans out there. I just happen to be one! (And thanks for the tidbit!)

    • Kevin A. Lewis says:

      OK, I’ll do it! It won’t be in the manuscript I’ve got lined up for my next read-request, but I can amend the master copy for the long run; I know it’s silly for books to have a theme song, but Karen’s version of “Home For The Holidays” is both beautiful and darkly ironic against the background of Aunt Hilda’s hair-raising reminiscences. And I still have to say that Karen’s holiday stuff is so ghost-right-in-the-room-with-you that’s it’s almost creepy, although how anybody could object to her popping in escapes me. And coming from a guy who’s quite proud of his taste in Manson Era acid rock, that’s something of a compliment. I wish she could have stuck around long enough for me to catch up to appreciating her… By the way, if you really want to hang with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, look up the Carpenter’s TV Christmas Special, which I think you can still get in DVD. My wife will sit still for the Colbert Christmas Special, but the poignancy of Karen’s just freaks her out, unfortunately.

  10. Miriam says:

    I’m enjoying this exchange, guys. You’ve convinced me to download the Carpenters’ Christmas collection. I agree that Karen Carpenter has one of the most hauntingly lovely voices…ever. Kevin, you might want to send your YA to John Rudolph or Jim McCarthy here if you haven’t already. They’re both strong in this category.

    • Kevin A. Lewis says:

      No sooner said than done, and if it causes anybody to snore soundly in the doorway thru the holidays, toss it into the recycler with no hard feelings… We’ve got a while to trade holiday trivia till sleighs fly and dreidels spin, so since you’ve got books to sell and I’ve got another read-request in my in-box, we’ll be off into the winter wonderland and all that, eh, what?

  11. Lynn says:

    Miriam, you won’t regret it! There are some great Christmas classics there!

    Kevin, you have a way with words! Christmas may come early this year!

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