“Fuck you, Kindle.”
–from Stuart Bousel’s The Edenites
This summer I’m reading a book about lesbian vampires. Let me explain…
Summer reading lists have always been more a burden than a boon. I suppose I attribute this to first being introduced to the concept in elementary school. Now I don’t know about you, but a child has every reason to believe that once the final bell has rung that sunny June day (or May, as is often the case these days) that their obligation to anything resembling homework is null and void. Summer is a time for many things, thinking isn’t supposed to be one of them.
Even for a budding bookworm like myself – who would soon naturally gravitate towards such adventure-laden tomes as The Swiss Family Robinson, The Three Musketeers, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – the idea that I was required to spend my well-earned sunny season not rolling in dirt ‘til I resembled Pigpen, but cooped up in my room reading about Johnny Tremaine and his broken hand was unappealing.
As I grew older and drifted away dirt-based shenanigans, literature began to appeal to me much more. My inclination toward adventure and self-discovery soon found me in search of classic works like Le Morte d’Artur, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the like. Ponderence of my racial identity found me easily absorbing The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Revolutionary Suicide, and the works of Langston Hughes. And my love of comic books slowly exposed me to profound works along the lines of Maus, Watchmen, and Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix books.
But, as with every medium, literature suffers from two irritating inherent problems: 1.) elitists, and 2.) there’s never enough time to read everything you want. I’ve dealt with the former since highschool: no matter how much I loved Arthurian lore, some girls whom I admired told me I “didn’t REALLY know what it’s about unless [I]’ve read Mists of Avalon” (which I still never have). The latter is just a fact of life. As such, when I would add such entries to my summer list, I would feel all the more guilty when I inevitably never got to them. (Do you know how many YEARS ago I said I’d finish Octavia Butler’s Fledgling but haven’t?!) Once a sense of futility sets in, you begin wondering why one would even make a list at all.
And yet, in the past few weeks I’ve been making known 2012 summer reading list to friends in-person and on-line. I think this is because I have an insatiable appetite for literature that has mostly gone wanting in recent years. Perhaps it’s a belief in mind-over-matter (i.e. if I say I’m going to finish this book, then once I pick it up I can’t back down)? Perhaps it’s because I’m surrounded by so many fellow bookworms (who also have lists of books that they will get to “one of these years”)? Perhaps it’s because I think of it as an exercise programme? Y’know, if I put my list out there for people who know me, then they will both encourage me and hold me accountable for not completing it? That works for me.
As I look now over my list, I notice that three of the six listed deal specifically with one of my favourite topics: sexuality. It is the one activity necessary for the continuation of a species and the one we “evolved” beings have most tried to control. I didn’t consciously mean to dedicate half of my list to sexy books, but I love seeing the way sexuality is never interpreted the same way by any two people. If any fictional or non-ficitional document of the human existence is to be taken seriously – from The Bible to The Story of O – the way the author interprets sexuality will be one of the things we must most closely observe.
That, and I haven’t been gettin’ any recently so I need something to get me through the cold nights.
- Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The aforementioned “lesbian vampire” story is possibly the first vampire story ever collected in literary form. Published in 1872, it predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 25 years.
- The Republic by Plato
I’ve been meaning to go back to this for some time. I first came by it in college and it’s always held a place in the back of mind whenever I ponder the concept of “utopia”. Not long ago I was speaking with a fellow playwright as we were discussing dream projects. I won’t bore you with the details of mine, suffice it to say this book is involved. Let’s see how I react to it after ten years.
- Black Hole by Charles Burns
Yes, I am FINALLY going to read it! This critically-acclaimed, award-winning graphic novel revolves around a new STD that causes those infected to suffer horrific physical transformations.
I’ve heard almost universal praise for it, save for one friend. I’ll finally read it myself and see what all the fuss is about.
- Return of the Dapper Men written by Jim McCann, illustrated by Janet Lee
Recommended by my friend Cody, another award-winning graphic novel. This one centres on a strange land called Anorev which is literally trapped in time – nothing ages, advances, or grows. One day 314 “dapper” men fall from the sky and everything changes. How and why did time stop? What can be done about it? What is an individual’s place among the many?
- Diablerie by Walter Mosely
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Walter Mosely novel, and his last erotic novel – Killing Johnny Fry – was more an exercise in explicit description than an attempt to either (A) tell a compelling, coherent story or (B) arouse the reader. Still, I’ve heard good things about Diablerie, his second attempt at erotica.
It’s a about a 47-year-old Black man who’s recently experienced a sexual reawakening when a mysterious former lover comes back to shatter his house of cards.
- Level Up written by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Thien Pham
Yup, one more graphic novel. I love Yang’s work and I’ve read the first 12 pages of this. It’s about a kid who views his life through videogames – something to which my generation can easily relate.
So that’s my list, folks. Feel free to share yours as well – maybe we can hold each other to task and we’ll all get some readin’ done, eh? Although I should mention that I’m a paper-elitist.
Death to Kindle!!