July 19, 2002

Seasonal Reading and The Centaur

Category: Literature,Updates :: Permalink

For the past two weeks, it has been very hot here in Lethbridge. I don’t have air conditioning, and my study is the highest (and hence, the hottest) room in the house. The two big windows facing south are wonderful in the winter, but in the summer they let in a lot of heat. (The three walls covered with bookshelves, floor to ceiling, on the other hand, are wonderful year round.) Today was a little cooler, and we even had some rain early in the morning. The sun is out now, though, and it’s starting to heat up.

Which leads me to this question: Do you categorize books as “winter reads” and “summer reads”? I can’t say that I have every book categorized that way, but there are certain books that just seem as if they would be better read when the weather is cold and there’s snow on the ground. Take The Lord of the Rings, for example: I could certainly read it during the summer, but there’s something about it that calls (to my mind, at least) for cold weather. The same is true of The Book of the New Sun: I deliberately chose to read it in the winter. Mind you, the sequel, The Urth of the New Sun, made a great spring read for some reason.

I just finished reading John Updike’s The Centaur, probably the Updike book I’ve enjoyed the most so far (more than Rabbit Run). The book is somewhat odd. The main character, George Caldwell is a teacher at the high school in Olinger, a setting to which Updike has frequently returned. That part of the story seems pretty straightforward, but in a couple of chapters, the story is told as if Caldwell is Chiron, a centaur, and the whole story is linked in some way to Greek mythology. In fact, Updike, at the request of his wife, even included an index at the end, showing all the references to various mythological figures. But when you look up those references, you don’t see, for instance, the name “Venus” on the page to which he refers you; rather, you might see a reference to Vera Hummel.

Sometime, it might be worthwhile for me to re-read the book and look at those connections more carefully. For now, I just enjoyed the story and the beauty of Updike’s poetic prose. I suppose I could have read it comfortably in the winter — the description of the falling snow toward the end of the book is beautiful — but it made a pretty good summer read, too.

Mysteries I could read in any season. Just recently, I read and enjoyed Dorothy Sayers’ The Documents in the Case, written, interestingly enough, as a collection of letters and other documents.

Well, my company has just arrived home. Alex and Calvin Barendregt and Tim Gallant, all from Grande Prairie, are down for the weekend. Gotta go!

Posted by John Barach @ 3:36 pm | Discuss (0)

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