Not your regular guide or list of recommendations. More like something in between.
Words by Raquel Fernández Sobrín
Time isn’t exactly a human being’s best friend. How could it? Although hours, minutes and seconds always last the same, they simply don’t according to our perception. Time disappears when we want it to last and seems an eternity when we beg it to end. Time is like the enemy, and expressions such as “killing time” sound like some kind of revenge. Of course, time fights back: summer days, usually filled with time to kill, go away faster every year.
We tend to link the idea of free time with that of time to use. So it is never free. We pack with the hope of bringing back moments of history and we put books in our luggage to multiply the destinies of a journey. How many people have run miles away of their tiny spots on the beach with a Swedish novel? How many got to ignore a child’s screaming at the pool thanks to the voice of their generation? How many have forgotten the absence of a summer love story via Danielle Steel? Reading is always a good idea, but at this point of this uncertain summer when it’s quite obvious that we went out too soon to buy flowers like Mrs. Dalloway (1925) -whom although not specified on Virginia Woolf’s book was recovering from the Spanish flu-, seems like the best one.
You can discover a lot of things from someone’s personality by the book they are holding as long as its cover is not wrapped in one of those protective plastics. People who read autobiographies are good listeners. Those who choose the self-help genre are aware of their problems (or at least trying to) and people who prefer historical novels appreciate a nice dose of reality. Some people don’t really need to think about it as they always pick the book of the moment. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or The Girl on the Train, despite it is obvious from the very beginning that the first one ends in absolute tragedy and the second… the second leaves you wondering what you’ve been doing without canned gin tonic. My respects to the reader that waits until the buzzing is gone to start the book. Those who are currently going through the pages of the 2013’s Booker Prize (The Luminaires of Eleanor Catton) or Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Novel Pulitzer Prize back in 2014, although it already has a film version. If you have recently read Normal People instead of watching the series, congratulations. You are part of the resistance.
Let’s stay in the shortlist field a bit longer, as everybody has unfinished business with literature, whether it is Dostoyevskiy’s The Idiot, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or Flaubert’s Sentimental Education. This people know that what seems a torture can turn into salvation, that never-ending phrases and eternal paragraphs can be the trigger of Á la recherche du shoe perdu (1955) from Andy Warhol because time devoted to Proust is never lost time. August 28th is a special day for them, because they woke up hand in hand with Edna Pontellier.
Don’t get me wrong: indulgent reading can be as good as the hardest exercise of intellectuality. A few summers ago I read Front Row: Anna Wintour, Champagne Supernovas and Kate Moss: The Complete Picture in a row. Not only I overcame two weeks of pure gossip, I learned that the word “scandal” becomes “anecdote” over time. Yours can be romantic novel, crime novel or science fiction literature (if this is your case please, please read Ursula K. Le Guin).
“New” is also overrated when it comes to books. There’s nothing more revealing than a second or a third read. The Unbereable Lightness of Being, Malena: The Name of Tango or Play it as it Lays can’t possibly be the same a decade after even their words never change.
Reading can be an act of personal intimacy as meaningful as thinking, but we shouldn’t underestimate collective reading. Specially if we are talking about horoscopes while at the pool or the beach although this activity, linked to magazine shopping, has lost adepts in favor of scrolling. We don’t talk enough of how much you lose by not sharing omens during your teenage years and that doesn’t imply only those related to your future: watching your friend manipulate 50 words until they got to mean what she wanted them to mean is an experience that educates your adult self in human being’s capacity of self-deception*.
Last but not least, there’s the books we don’t read and feel heavier by the return. Heavy like the dress we didn’t wear or the last drink that never was. But we always need more time.
*Note for the reader: the author believes as much in star’s influence as she does in suggestion. She’s a virgo so forgive her skepticism.