On our trip, I read The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik. My wonderful friend Hannah gave it to me as a gift. Because she knows me like that. Sometimes I read books and I know others will like them. Other times a book feels so intensely personal, I can’t make a recommendation. By the end of this book, I felt like I’d been married to Gopnik for about 20 years. Each time I picked it up, I felt elation, confusion, a bit pissed off and I’d think, “Adam! It’s like I don’t know you anymore!!” Chapters alternate between essays and history to fan letters to the food writer Elizabeth Pennell. In these letters, he’s having a conversation with her and they’re a bit like the conversation I was having with him in my head. I loved this book so much. It felt epic and wonderful and personal. I don’t know if you’ll love it, but you might give it a shot.
After that, I picked up the BOOK OF THE SUMMER. At least according to all of the press and the reviews it is this. Age of Miracles. This is a coming-of-age story about a girl during “The Slowing.” Basically, earth starts rotating slower and days extend by hours. I feel like I need to warn possible readers of this book that it borders on precious. There’s a constant hyper-focus on minute details and actions by others. At first I thought it was lovely. Now I just notice every time a person pushes her hair back with her wrist and/or stares at the sky. That type of detail is a way to fill white space, and I certainly understand the impulse to do it. But I think it needs to be used sparingly. Right now, I’m reading scenes and thinking, cue the hair/wrist swipe!
All that being said, I am enjoying the book very much. Though probably not for the reasons every single 30-something literary fiction author who has ever published a book with a major house AND published short fiction in the New Yorker loves it. I love it because it’s set about 10 miles from where I grew up and it’s the story of an only child who’s a bit of an outcast. OMG! I think I wrote a book about this very topic too! She’s got the only child stuff down pat and at no point does the book say it’s set in San Diego, but San Diego is just so evident to anyone who grew up there. I’m impressed that she captured both of these experiences so well. As to the slowing, I’m in a slow part with it. The days are getting longer and longer. I’m getting weary of the plot device and I hope it takes a more assertive role in the writing. If not, then all I can wonder is if it’s just there to add quirk. If you’re not an only child who grew up in San Diego, I recommend waiting for the paperback.