Unmask Thyself! & A Summer Reading Project


The CDC has issued an Unmask Thyself mandate. We the Vaccinated are encouraged to go wherever we want, indoors and outdoors, without masks. We are relieved to have “vaccine privileges,” and hope this summer will be less confrontational than last. But the truth is we’re a little confused: we don’t feel entirely comfortable without masks in stores. And we LOVE social distancing – the perfect excuse for rudeness. But perhaps more people will get vaccinated when they see there is a reason for it: freedom.

And should we decide to attend a superspreader oldies concert featuring The Turtles, the Association, the Cowsills, Mark Lindsay, Chuck Negron, and The Vogues, we need not worry about “unvaccinated spit” mingling with ours and contaminating us. That will be their problem!

SUMMER IS COMING UP FAST. What is your summer reading project? Of course you’re doing the 20 Books of Summer! I am doing the Two Books of Summer.

Last year it was Dumas’s The Vicomte of Bragelonne, one of the d’Artagnan Romances, which I moderately enjoyed before losing the book. Well, I found it again, and since one plot element does not necessarily lead to the next in this rambling historical novel, I shall happily start on the bookmarked page, 300something. The Oxford edition has a detailed historical character list and excellent notes. I rely on it for background.

I also intend to pick up Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil for the fifth or sixth time. Is it actually a classic? It certainly isn’t “pop.” Virgil is sick and dying, he arrives at Brundisium and is carried on a litter through the city, and he ogles a boy. That is the first hundred pages. For four or five summers, I tried again and quit again on page 100. This year I have decided to start on page 100. My husband is keeping The Death of Virgil on a special shelf, so I will not have the “opportunity” to lose the book. Perhaps one hundred pages a summer?

Tell me your summer plans. I’m begging you! The 20 Books of Summer – and what else?

9 thoughts on “Unmask Thyself! & A Summer Reading Project”

  1. Although I normally adore making lists, I’m afraid I’m opting out of the current challenges in favor of catching up on some of the many books I’ve read and not reviewed (about 15-20 so far). I may opt into a series of Smithsonain zoom lectures on Wm Faulkner, a very great but currently unpopular writer; if I do this it will be re-reads of Light in August, Absalom and Sound and Fury & will be very time consuming. I’m mullling over whether I like these novels well enough to spend the next two months reading them.
    I’ve noticed you’ve a strong predilection for the classics; even so, the Broch novel looks like pretty heavy lifting (I’ve had Mahlouf’s An Imaginary Life on my TBR for ages. At least it looks fairly straightforward). Vis a vis the classics, I usually confine myself to various modern re-interpretations of the myths by writers such as Madeline Miller; fun, easy to read and actually based on classical sources. I also occasionally dip into essays by scholars such as Mary Beard.
    Good luck with the Broch!

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    1. Poor Faulkner! How could one of our greatest writers have fallen out of fashion? That said, he is very demanding, and I could only read three if the third were something light, like The Reivers.
      I love classics, and why I’m determined to read Broch I do not know. I know I’ll have more fun with Dumas.

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      1. I may be overstating the unpopularity thing vis a vis Faulkner (hope so, anyway). I think his racial attitudes, which are quite complicated, may cause contemporary readers some concern. Also, of course, there’s the demanding nature of his fiction. I’ve a copy of Michael Gorra’s latest, a Faulkner study, which examines both the lingering trauma of the civil war on Faulkner’s fiction and his racial attitudes (“Wm Faulkner: the Saddest Words) Of course, I’ve yet to read a page of it! The lectures I alluded to are actually being given by Gorra himself, which is why I’m really considering the time investment. I hate to pass up the opportunity to hear a real expert discuss a difficult writer!

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        1. Yes, many of his characters are grotesque, and he is certainly too busy capturing the history of Mississippi, warts and all, to leave racism out. It’s Mississippi! In one of the Snopes books, I was very upset by the mentally retarded man who is in love with and has sex with a cow. Why, Faulkner, why? But I did love Light in August. You make these Smithsonian lectures sound fascinating and I must look them up now, so thank you!

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          1. I afraid I’d not confine Faulkner to Mississippi, which I think he merely using as a subtitute/stand-in for the universe of humanity, although I’ll admit that he does focus on that universe’s southern manifestations (after all, this IS what he knew firsthand and they’re so extreme — a gift for a novelist).
            I well remember the cow episode from The Hamlet. As I recall one of the characters watching said something along the lines of “he had to believe in god, even if he knowed it wasn’t true;” I was very struck by this at the time, taking it as F’s use of the grotesque to question how god could allow such horrors to exist (speaking of horrors — I just pulled down my copy to check and — quelle horreur — discovered that I had discarded my copy during my moving purge! This must be rectified immediately).
            I actually think I will do the lectures, although I may not have time to read all three books. Light in August, a truly great novel, I remember pretty well and I’ve re-read Absalom relatively recently. It’s Sound and the Fury that I’m just not sure I can face!

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            1. I always think of Faulkner as a regional as well as an American writer – his fictitious county gives me the heebie jeebies. His language is gorgeous, his truth-telling no fairy tale, and it certainly makes me reluctant to visit Mississippi, but I would love to visit the hometown of Faulkner and Eudora Welty!

              I do love the idea of the Faulkner lecture, but maybe I’ll just look at the Gorra book.

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  2. When I heard the news from the U.S. I immediately thought of how relieved you would be!

    And, yet, I do understand the reluctance to continue with some of the precautions.

    Hopefully you have a more enjoyable summer than the last. We’ve already had more than one 28 degree day, and I am trying not to be anxious about the approaching heat and fires (which are not an issue in our immediate environs but affect every creature in the end). Already the building is absorbing heat in a way that I associate with July. Soon it might even be too hot to read…..

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    1. Yes, it is a great relief! and all due to the vaccine rollout. Everyone still wears masks in stores, and that too is a relief. We’re not throwing caution to the winds…

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