Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reading Suggestions Solicited

About a year ago we spent a lovely week with my parents at a coffee farm in Costa Rica (Dad, you have forgotten but you were there and you had a good time).
I take vacation reading very seriously. First of all, I simply need to be sure I have enough to read because the idea of being in a beautiful spot with great food, excellent walks and good company – but not enough reading material – strikes me as a sure path to misery; and second, I like to have appropriate reading material. In New Mexico I want to read Mabel Dodge Luhan’s memoirs, in Prague I will read Kafka and Hrabal, in Ethiopia I will read Kapuscinski’s The Emperor and Waugh’s Black Mischief (very amusing), and in Costa Rica I will read the latest Bolaño, some Rubén Darío (Nicaragua is next to Costa Rica, closer than Russia is to Alaska) and the memoirs of Wilson Poponoe, the agronomist who scoured the jungles of Central America looking for the perfect avocado (a valiant effort if there ever was one).

I could go on.
CSB (who with whom it has been suggested I have Nothing in Common) has a rather different attitude about vacation reading. He thinks time in foreign parts is a perfectly good time to read all the back issues of Bee Culture and American Bee Journal and The Ins and Outs of Comb Honey.
We don’t travel light.
(Aldous Huxley, so I was once told, had traveling trunk specially made to carry all 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and he took it with him everywhere he went. There were very strong porters in those days and the airlines were less strict about carry-on, so I hear.)
Last year in Costa Rica, thanks to a brilliant Christmas gift by Peter and Fritz (well known re-gifters of books) CSB took along a book that had nothing whatever to do with honeybees. It was Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. He read it on the patio overlooking Volcan Turrialba and laughed aloud. He read it on Playa Junquillal and chortled enticingly.
“What is so funny?” I would demand.
CSB insisted that I would not find the story of an American boyhood in Omaha as funny as he did because I am [choose one: effete, not a normal American, insufficiently steeped in 1960's TV arcana, a Proustian manqué, a bleeding heart-white-wine drinking liberal, all of the above].
“Just read me something and see if I laugh,” I begged.
Grudgingly, he complied.
Of course I thought it was funny. When Bill Bryson is funny he is hilarious and when Stanley Katz enters the tale, all caution flies.
I am not THAT effete.

Which brings me to the request. (Has anyone read this far?) We are returning soon to the coffee farm, with my parents, and I seek another amusing book for CSB. Please send suggestions.

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