We should all probably be reading “Capital in the 21st Century” or “The Fourth Revolution” to better understand the world we find ourselves in, but, hey, it’s heading for 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity. Whether you’re actually at the beach or not, we have entered the season of beach reading.
Everybody has got his or her genre of choice for escapist entertainment. I lean toward detectives and espionage, so the summer ahead looks bright. The latest from Alan Furst, “Midnight in Europe,” and Daniel Silva, “The Heist,” are in the pipeline.
But perhaps such things are too trivial. Amazon urges me to consider what’s “hot” in literature. But what this now seems to signify is less like literature than a sort of upscale romance novel at best and Grand Guignol at worst. Just listen to these enticing blurbs..
The paths of a blind French girl and German boy collide in occupied France. Nazis aren’t enough, she has to be blind?
Or how about money, envy and OCD in the Hamptons — “Revenge” meets “Monk.” the movies call this kind of thing — high concept.
Or Pete, the social worker, tries to help a feral eleven-year-old in the Montana wilderness but is forced to deal with his paranoid survivalist father. This sounds like NPR meets the NRA.
Or Sarah, whose son has died in an avalanche (Really?), must cope with her grief while her father spends wildly on QVC, her best friend can only talk about her messy divorce, and Sarah’s own ex-husband darkens her door.
I feel a theme developing here. Psychopathology and/or personal tragedy combined with scenery. Sometimes there’s a therapeutic twist.
Jim, well-known expressionist painter, who is haunted by the time he shot a man in a bar and his disintegrating marriage, abandons Santa Fe for rural Colorado to start anew. I don’t know this for a fact, but I bet a hot, sympathetic potter will practice sexual healing with him.
Or, after the death of his beloved wife and the loss of his business to his once-trusted partner, Alan walks cross country with a back pack to heal his wounds.
Or Allison’s husband is distant, her daughter is acting out and her father is descending into Alzheimer’s as her drug habit escalates.
Sometimes there’s even a resort to New Age spiritualism. A lovelorn man crossing Central Park is illuminated by a translucent light while his brother struggles to write the perfect wedding song for his dying wife-to-be. This summer, dying wives appear to be catnip for lovers of “literature.”
Amazingly, some of the above are by Pulitzer and PEN winning writers which is more evidence for how far the decline of the West has advanced. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to read such stuff, but I believe we can all figure out the formula for writing it
Our hero/heroine is (pick one):
An interior decorator.
A medecin sans frontieres worker.
A dulcimer virtuoso.
A sign language instructor.
A tennis coach.
A panda whisperer.
He/she is suffering from (pick one):
MERS virus caught from a camel hair coat.
Restless leg syndrome.
When disaster strikes (pick one):
Plague of locusts.
Lyme disease outbreak.
New Ice Age.
In the scenic surroundings of (pick one):
The Hindu Kush.
The Chilean wine country.
Palma de Mallorca.
Luckily he/she is saved by (pick one):
A good-hearted librarian.
A sage psychologist.
An understanding software billionaire.
A buff fire jumper.
A reformed ex-husband/wife.
A willowy cowgirl.
A shirtless oceanographer.
A priest turned Pilates instructor.
The ghost of the beloved wife/husband from Act I.