Hedonist’s Holiday

I am a promiscuous reader. I guess that makes me a bit of a book slut. Aside from a handful of authors whose work I will read no matter what (Michael Chabon, Barbara Kingsolver, Ken Follett, John Irving, Cathleen Schine and Richard Russo) I traverse genres, authors, time periods, easily, maybe even fanatically, dallying with Stephen King, spending an illicit afternoon with Kate Christensen, Jennifer Weiner, Kate Atkinson or Elinor Lipman, with vacation-style forays into the worlds created Sarah Waters, Geraldine Brooks, Allegra Goodman, Melanie Benjamin, Lauren Belfer and Dan Chaon. So many books…so little time.

I read obsessively, but, as is the nature of obsessions, it never seems to be enough. For years I’ve been dreaming of taking a reading vacation.  I read somewhere that someone famous (and probably rich, too) takes two weeks every year and devotes them solely to catching on reading. What a luxury, right?  Well, fellow bookworms and bibliofiles, I recently got my wish.  This year marked my mother-in-law’s 80-th birthday.  To celebrate we rented a house on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution (which, if you don’t know it, be sure to check out the website http://www.ciweb.org).  It’s like summer camp for adults.

Aside from great lectures, music and art classes of all types, not to mention a terrific book store, and a fantastic French restaurant (La Fleur) within a half mile from the Institution’s front gate, they also have boating, water sports of all kinds, an Olympic size indoor pool and a first-rate tennis center. Dave’s mom invited several of her friends to join us and they had a full slate of lectures and activities planned. And truthfully, Dave and I were looking forward to spending some time alone together.  I just recently finished a big revision on my book and Dave has been travelling for work entirely too much lately. We decided we were going to devote ourselves to working on our tennis. (Dave’s goal is to make it to the Double A League for the indoor tennis season.  Mine is to get the ball over the net.)

But a pesky back injury has sidelined me. No exercise, no prolonged sitting, no bending, lots of rest for two to four weeks–doctor’s orders. That leaves lying down and standing, maybe an occasional walk by the lake. What’s a girl to do? Especially when aforementioned husband is off playing tennis all day??

I spent the first two days stoned on Vicodin and feeling sorry for myself, until I realized that being confined to lying down and standing really wasn’t all that bad. After all, I could do two of my favorite things either lying down or standing–read and cook.  So, that is exactly what I did. All week. It was bliss.  Alas, I couldn’t load or unload the dishwasher, and my back seemed to freeze up whenever it was time to do the dishes, but Dave and Fran, champs that they are, admirably took over.  Instead, I could shop, read recipes and cook.  Maybe take a stroll to the Famer’s Market to pick up some fresh corn or summer tomatoes for lunch or dinner.  And read.

I caught up on my New Yorkers. For the first time in about twenty years I am not perpetually a month behind.  I read the NYT cover to cover and did the crossword puzzle every day (note: I didn’t say I finished them all….).  In short, I am feeling especially especially erudite and au courant.

I read the following books: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, A Fierce Radiance and City of Light ( a re-read) both by Lauren Belfer, and The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker (thanks, Kate!). I also attended Mark Altschuler’s Saturday morning short story class where we read and discussed Russell Bank’s Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Boat. (Thank you, Mark and all my fellow participants for a great discussion!) Another of the many truly great things about Chautauqua is the they are home to the oldest book club in America–the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Society, of which I am now a proud member. When I said it was like camp, it’s really like camp for bookworms.  If only my parents had sent me there instead of the Pingree sailing camp (really bad idea) or the YMCA camp (really, really bad idea) where we played Dodgeball every afternoon and I had to hide in the bushes to avoid being the last one picked…again.

It was a great week.  Once I started reading, no more Vicodin.  I took the reading cure instead.  Did I get my fill?  Was I finally saturated?  No. Reading, for me, anyway, is like eating lobster.  I’ve never in my life, not once on 49 years, eaten enough lobster.  Even sitting amidst the foot high pile of carnage generated by consuming a 3 lb lobster, I’m still left wanting more.  I guess that makes me a hedonist. No sooner do I close the flap on a book then I’m hungry for more,  Gimme, gimmee, gimmee…

Hopefully, my back will recover soon.  (As of this writing I’m into week four of the projected four week recovery period and I don’t seem to fully on pace.)  But, the reading vacation will be repeated.  At least one week every year. As many books, magazines and newspapers as I can cram in, while still making time for some great meals along the way.