Friday, August 20, 2010
Chop chop there, people! You have to hurry. The pressure is intense to get relaxed and mellow. August is moving right along and beach-reading season is fleeing “like sands through the hourglass.” Soon, autumn will be here, novel-time will have flown and the time for seriousness and self-improvement will bear down upon you. So quick! Don’t’ waste the remainder of the summer; grab a big old novel and lose yourself in the world of “imaginary.”
What a great beach-reading summer this has been for me! My rush into the “imaginary” has included the new novel by Anna Quindlin, Rhoda Janzen’s “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress,” new short story volumes by Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle, the paperbound version of Richard Russo’s “That Old Cape Magic,” and the amusing, Noreen-who-loves-all-things-Southern-recommended, “Elvis and the Dearly Departed:” some books that made me laugh until I cried, and some books that made me cry.
All of those devoured, I experienced a sense of urgency for fresh prey, and went on the hunt from our own Better World Books. Ever faithful, they provided a quick fix. “A Vintage Affair” arrived to fill my plate and I practically swallowed it whole in about twenty-four hours! Actually, just before it was served, I sampled “Shakespeare’s Wife,” a book about Anne Hathaway: an engaging tome, which had to be tossed aside after only about 10 pages. Way too serious for summer: clearly an autumn book, thus, the need for the hunting and the gathering of “A Vintage Affair.”
Several others of the Michiana Chronicles’ folks are much better qualified to review a book than I. They can tell you about symbolism, metaphor, and hidden meaning: technical, critical aspects. I just will say, “Golly, I really liked this book!” It has a bit of mystery, a bit of love story, a protagonist named Phoebe (a name that I always have loved) and lingering, loving descriptions of vintage clothing. What more could you want in a summer read?!
OK. The vintage clothing thing may not be for everybody, but any of you who fondly remember clothing from your past, or who ever have bought a piece of clothing just because it was beautifully constructed or was made from gorgeous fabric , or sewed a garment yourself for the same reason, will be hooked. (Those of you with the stashes of unsewn fabric know who you are and don’t need me to tell you about that guilty pleasure.) And, for you writer-types, “A Vintage Affair” is an illustration of how to stretch your prose. Take something that holds your attention and then write it into your novel. For the right audience, seemingly, it can pad the book in an interesting way by as much as a third.
Isabel Wolff, the author of “A Vintage Affair,” incorporates these clothing discussions into her novel by depicting Phoebe as the proprietor of a recently opened vintage clothing shop. The acquisition and sale of the clothing sets the stage for the lengthy, affectionate descriptions of the garments: so well described in fact, that sometimes you just want to reach out and feel the fabric or examine the workmanship. Those mental, almost tactile, moments, threaded with Phoebe’s dual romantic options with the Miles and Dan characters, and embroidered with the mystery of the blue coat and, construct an ideal beach book. These are reasons that I said, “Golly, I really liked this book!”
Reading-glutton that I am, as the light-time of the days shortens and the summer heat lessens, I’m onto David Nicholls “One Day.” After that, who knows? There may be time to squeeze in the much recommended, “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” before I face up to the autumn and go crawling back to “Shakespeare’s Wife.” Before then though, don’t leave me out here alone on my reclining chair; there’s still time for you to grab a slice of “imaginary” and flop down beside me for a relaxing, mellowing beach read.