A Season to Catch Up on Reading

A Season to Catch Up on Reading

“The Vegetarian,” by Han Kang, is one of those novels — about a woman pushed to the brink by a dream-induced dietary decision — that too many people have said they’re reading right now. So now one of those people has to be me. I’ve started it. And the only reason I’ve put it down is to type to you all that I’m reading it — and just doing that has got me going through withdrawal.

Judith Crist was part of that great era of American film criticism that was ready for the movies to crack open by the late 1960s. Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Susan Sontag and Renata Adler tend to overshadow her. I, at least, never turn to her for insight the way I do those other folks. And yet Crist could be so insightful. She saw what was happening by the mid-to-late 1960s as clearly as, say, Kael. She just perceived things differently, with different nerve and different guts. Whenever I see one of Crists’s books in a shop, I buy it and peruse it. This summer, I’m going to stick my straw into “The Private Eye, the Cowboy and the Very Naked Girl: Movies From Cleo to Clyde.”

I’m also planning to read “Hue 1968,” by Mark Bowden, “Dispatches,” by Michael Herr, and “In Retrospect,” by Robert S. McNamara. Recently, I was made aware of some family news involving my late grandfather and his son, my late uncle — well, it was news to me. It’s not worth going into here. But it involves the Vietnam War. And it came at a moment when people in my life were telling me that they were rereading different books about the war, none of which I’d read. Well, I read Herr’s novel so long ago that I may as well have not read it. You’re looking at this assignment and laughing. But I’m serious about it, even if it means republishing this same paragraph in a year.

Having just finished writing a book that required a ton of nonfiction reading, I’m glad to read fiction again. First, I’m going to punch one of the remaining holes on my Nerd Card by finally reading “Watchmen,” the dark superhero alternative history by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, held to be one of the greatest graphic novels. It’s also the jumping-off point for an HBO series later this year, so I’m still reading for work as well as fun. But, baby steps.

A fat collection of poetry is the best summer reading. You can read a poem, doze off for a while and then read it again, or find another if you’ve lost your place. A single poet in bulk is an ideal houseguest, perpetually interesting and never demanding. Last summer I left Kevin Young’s generous and multifarious “Blue Laws” in the country. It and I have been through some weather since then, and I look forward to picking up where I left off. Or starting over.

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