We’re in Western Massachusetts where spring is just beginning to … spring. Daffodils sprawl along driveways in a hushed, settled community – yellow and white and sometimes both, hinting at the bright season to come. But for now the air still bites when it rushes through the thick stretches of trees, brushing new leaves against each other so they call out in noisy surprise.
The houses are gathered in meandering clusters around blue, wide, rippling Lake Ashmere. some are grand and freshly painted but most of them are modest and no two houses look alike; snowflakes, all of them, right down to their small and jutting boat docks.
We’re staying at a friend’s family lake house. It’s light and warm with big windows, beautiful old wood floors and childhood photos on the walls. We’re waiting for sunset to walk down to the lake again, give ourselves a quick chill in its far away glow and then hurry back to light a fire in the big stone fireplace. The logs, kindling and fire-starter-newspaper are ready. The damper is open.
In the meantime we’re reading, coloring, listening to podcasts and the radio – generally nerding out.
What have we been reading? Well, since you asked …
Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
This book is my favorite. I can’t help it. It’s rich in language and imagery and character and philosophies on love; on life. It’s beautiful. This was my second read of Shantaram – a favorite friend recommended it years ago and its allure has continued to follow me across time. But I wasn’t ready for it again until now. I needed the ability to devote myself to it, undistracted, so I could soak up each clever turn of phrase and relish in the lavish scenery. And the “sequel,” The Mountain Shadow, was recently released (ten long years later) – I may have it with me, too.
Travels With Willie, Willie Weir
Our friend Zee gifted this to us before we took off in Nico. He said, “This book taught me that travel isn’t about motion or places, but it is a manner in which to fearlessly approach the world and the people in it.” He said it perfectly. When Bumpas was reading the book he’d laugh out loud and audibly “hmmmph” in agreement or appreciation. When I was reading it I found myself making the same noises – Bumpas would asked me which story I was into and laugh again with me. It’s simple, intelligent and fun. It’s really great, and perfect for our journey.
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
Eugenides is a master of characters. He displays the human condition so vividly through the movements and voices of his characters you come to know them. While Middlesex is still my favorite of Eugenides’ novels, I found myself unwittingly connected to this cast of characters – the English major and critic of literary criticism, the Religious Studies enthusiast and traveler of the world …
Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
This one was made into a movie last year. Maybe it was better than the book (the screenplay was written by Nick Hornby). While it’s an interesting portrayal of a young Irish immigrant coming to America, it felt a little contrived. The distinctly male narrating voice interpreted the protagonist’s female thought and emotion pretty immaturely, and that was annoying.
Bright’s Passage, Josh Ritter
Yes, that Josh Ritter. I just asked Bumpas what he wanted to say about this one: “Thumbs up.” I guess that’s all you need.