Grades are in; graduation photographs are posted on Facebook. Amanda Tinder Smith, erstwhile graduate candidate, is now Amanda Tinder Smith, Ph.D.–and will be starting work as a faculty member at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in the fall. Sam Ferrigno, B.A., has an internship at Yale University Press, where he’ll get to know Niamh Cunningham, who not only works at YUP but has completed the first year of her M.A. program in English at Yale. Next fall Lisa D is starting her M.F.A. at Columbia in play writing; three other former students will also start writing programs elsewhere.
The ceiling in my office is fixed. Nothing has fallen on my head–at least not literally–for several weeks now.
So far, so good, right? Some great recent graduates are still looking for serious work (I can supply them with excellent references) but at least we’re off to a good start for the summer.
What I do to start off my summer is this: I read.
I read the way hungry people eat. (Actually, since I also eat the way hungry people eat even when I’m not hungry, maybe that’s not the best analogy.) Having hoarded books throughout the year, I sit down to devour them as soon as my desk is free of exams.
I’m going to start with Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. That’s one of the books I’ve been seeing in my peripheral vision for days now, ever since it arrived; it’s like knowing there’s left-over pie in the fridge. It’s been tough to stay away.
Having just taught Beyond Black for the first time, I’m eager to read Mantel’s new novel–a follow-up to Wolf Hall–a work I adored– for “fun.” (I put “fun” in quotation marks because I read Wolf Hall with history books scattered around the house so I consult, clarify, and chastise myself as I moved through the pages. It turns out I needed to brush up on my Tudors.)
Speaking of history, I’m also eager to sink my teeth into A Discovery of Witches by USC professor of history, Deborah Harkness, a novel set in part at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. And if I’m dipping into darkness and strangeness for bit, I’m also going to read a new paperback from Grove titled Witches on the Road Tonight, by Sheri Holman.
Moving away from the Gothic, and on the list for enlightenment I have One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman, as well as Looking for Alaska by John Green and Bird of Paradise Diana Abu-Jaber’s come highly recommended by friends and students; they are on second shelf, the one for the second half of the summer, alongside Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve, The Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel (which I’ve started but am reading slowly, one bizarre chapter at a time), and Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ by Margaret Powell.
For the very end of August, I have a third shelf. On it is every Robert Benchley book I could find. I spent a good month collecting ones I already owned and putting them in one place and then I ordered, from used book shops all over the country, the ones I still needed. There are fourteen volumes; I suspect there’s some overlap and I suspect I’m still missing a few isolated essays. But at least Robert Benchley and I will have each other when the summer evenings start to cool and students return to campus. That’s compensation, after all, and a kind of just dessert/desert.
And you, dear reader? What are you reading this summer? With what books are you celebrating the end of the semester?