Summer Reading has been somewhat hampered by the recent influx of projects I've taken on, some of which I'm actually hoping I'll get paid for. But there is always the subway train, and Housing Works, whose trays of dollar books are tempting for the literate and poor artist like myself. Here are my two most recent trappings, followed by a book I am halfway through.
A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA
first edition cover art
Originally published in 1929, a high wind in Jamaica is a captivating tale of pirates, children, and the savagery that both genres of humanity represent. It tells the story of two groups of children, who are sent from the hurricane torn shores of post-colonial Jamaica back to their 'native' England, a place they only know about through tales of their parents. On the way the ship is seized by pirates, and eventually the reader is left to wonder who is really in control of the story-- the pirates or the children.
The premise sounds somewhat ridiculous, but the intimate narrative tone reels you right in---giving us thorough views into the insights of the children, who think and act as children do (immediately connecting us to their characters, we were all savage children at one time) which can definitely be disturbing. Even though the book itself is a short and 'easy' read, every sentence is so saturated with poignant truth, that I wanted to reread the whole thing after finishing the last page. This was a book that made me want to write.
LORD BYRON & GREEK LOVE : HOMOPHOBIA IN 19th CENTURY ENGLAND
Lord Byron the Sexy
We've all heard about Lord Byron-- the great romantic poet who invented the term/lifestyle of the dandy-- but only in the last twenty or so years has his personal life been able to be examined in a completely unbiased fashion in regards to his own sexuality. By examining the social climate of 19th Century England, Louis Crompton paints a thorough portrait of George Gordon Byron as a tormented bisexual who's celebrity was at odds with the vicious treatment of anyone suspected of sodomy.
England was far behind other nations in terms of its treatment of homosexuals- where to be caught more or less meant death or exile. As Lord Byron grew up, and courted lovers of all genders and backgrounds, he was constantly haunted and tormented by the possibility of society discovering his love for men. Particularly fascinating were his personal letters to another closeted friend, telling of his love triumphs in Greece, where every thing is alluded to in a lyrical code. Boys names changed to flowers, trysts changed to prayer meetings. A fascinating glimpse into a time where money and fame couldn't save you from society's prejudices-- an issue still too familiar with almost two hundred years later.
THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH
I read a few reviews of the highly anticipated movie remake of this book, and when every one was outraged at the film's blatant cover-up of the sexual aspects throughout the work; I had to see what I was missing out on. I love reading books/watching movie books, sometimes in either order, and after picking this one up, it doesn't surprise me that they got it wrong.
The prose is layered and intense, and the storyline is at once nostalgic and immediately meaningful. If you're in the mood for a little bit of smarter summer reading, pick this one up. However, I'm only halfway through it, so it could all go down from here and I should probably stop writing...now.