When I was organizing my bookshelves a couple weeks ago, I gathered together all the books I own that are half-finished and unread, some still unopened with that “new book” fresh paper smell. I bought many of these books during their first week of release in a rush of excitement to support a friend or after hearing a review on NPR. (Plus, it is hard not to get excited when Carleen, Zetta, or Color Online have a new recommendation!) The books, over a dozen, now have their own shelf in my home. And then there’s another shelf, one hidden in a back room with older classics that I always meant to finish, but didn’t. Top of this list: Melville’s Moby Dick and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Now is the time to read them – and if I feel the urge to “1-Click” my way to a new Amazon.com order – to get reacquainted with my local library. I’m particularly excited about these overdue books: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Nalo Hopkinson’s New Moon’s Arms. I also have A Wish Before Midnight on my iPhone Kindle (for when I’m in the doctor’s office waiting room) and Jabari Asim’s A Taste of Honey.
It is this last book, a short story collection, that I’m reading now and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s hilarious in places, contemplative in others, and very well crafted. Asim has a lighter touch than Colson Whitehead, but is just as perceptive. In some of the stories, the narrative voice of nine-year-old Crispus Jones reminds me of a late 1960s version of the TV show, “Everybody Hates Chris” (or maybe “Good Times” from Michael’s point of view?)
Take this paragraph:
Soon after my mom finally agreed to let me cross the street by myself, I forgot to look both ways while returning home and was nearly blindsided by a fast-moving Ford Fairlane. I escaped harm, though, until I reached our front proch. That’s when Pristine pulled me inside and commenced to clobbering me with the closest thing handy – a flip-flop that seconds before had been dangling from her foot. For a brief, merciful moment I was able to break free. I wrenched open the screen door and lunged for the porch, but Mom caught me by the ankles. Across the street, Petey and Choo-Choo bore astonished witness to the strange sight of me disappearing backward through the front door, an invisible force sucking me in like I was one of those anonymous doomed crewmen in a Star Trek episode. They got a final glimpse of my tear-streaked, horrified face frozen in midyell before it vanished behind the screen door.
Afterward, Petey told me that all he could make out through the mess was the dim outline of my mother and “that flip-flop going up and down, up and down.”
I love that this passage comes at the start of a story called “Zombies” with Crispus at the center of his own version of The Night of the Living Dead. And what begins as a comical scene about buttwhippings moves into a wonderful story about the relationship between brothers and about being curious, vulnerable, and young. Let’s hope that all my overdue books are as enjoyable as this one! Read an interview with the author of A Taste of Honey at Carleen’s blog.
What are you reading this summer?