No beach reads here

This is the season of beach reads, and the lists are pouring into my mail box and in-box and popping up on literary websites. They are the escape books we mentally dig into while our feet dig into the vacation sand, and suntan lotion smears the pages. I’m not heading to the beach this summer, rather I’ll be reading on my patio with a cold glass of beer and corgis at my feet. I’ll be reading War and Peace. (I kid not. Has anyone ever carried War and Peace with a beach ball?) I’ll be reading other books, too, and below is the beginning list, added to the Reading Table: seven interesting books for the patio. The summer has begun. 

Self Portraits: Fictions by Frederic Tuten
Inter-related stories in which the author appears. From the publisher’s website: “Fantasy and reality collide as the book’s principal characters — two lovers — meet, part and reunite, time and again, at different stages in life and in landscapes both familiar and exotic.”  Tuten’s book will be published in September 2010.

With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch by David Morgan
Morgan met the famous British author Iris Murdoch while he was a student studying at the Royal College of Art in London in the 1960s. This memoir — a compilation of essays and notes — is considered by some to be one of the more insightful accounts into Murdoch’s life and art to appear since her death in 1999.  According to the book’s introduction, it “vacillates between disrespect and homage, between hilarity and tears and between love and rage on both sides.”  Published by Kingston University Press of Kingston University in Surrey, England.

Walks with Men by Ann Beattie
A paperback novella at 102 pages, the story of a smart girl fresh out of Harvard hooking up with an intoxicating writer 20 years her senior in New York City. Here she gets her real education. Considered a shadow of  Beattie’s own story in the 1980s.

Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman
A small book from Yale University Press I’ve been meaning to read because it’s important we bring books of literature from around the world into English, so we read globally. Also, as I struggled to find a translation of War and Peace that worked for me, I became aware of the significant role of the translator.

Driftless by David Rhodes
Praised by the Chicago Tribune as “The best work of fiction to come out of the Midwest in many years.”  In 1976, David Rhodes’ life changed tragically in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He stopped publishing for three decades. Driftless is his return, about contemporary life in rural America. Poets & Writers magazine created a slide show of all his novels.

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst
A new novel by this master of World War II espionage. I’m a Furst fan and anticipate this to be another smart page-turner. According to the publisher’s website: “Greece, 1940. Not sunny vacation Greece: northern Greece, Macedonian Greece, Balkan Greece—the city of Salonika. In that ancient port, with its wharves and warehouses, dark lanes and Turkish mansions, brothels and tavernas, a tense political drama is being played out.”

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
In the summer of 2008, I bought the highly praised Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of this Russian classic intending to dig in for the long haul of reading.  I found the translation cumbersome, for reasons I wrote about several months back on TLC. At hand, now, is the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation, written in the 1920s, still considered to be one of the best.