Greetings and welcome to the Heat Dome Edition of You are What You Read. Get excited for the next few days which will be hot, sticky, and wretched. What is a heat dome? And what does it mean for me? Well People, it’s essentially a bubble that traps warm, humid air in the mid and upper atmosphere and pushes it down onto us. What this means for you is bad hair, cowering in a dark, air conditioned space, and clothing that can only be described as moist. Endure People. We must simply endure. So, drink lots of water, stay in the shade and check your neighbors. And try to remember the soul crushing misery of cold, ice, snow, binge bread buying and hat head.
Or should you want to embrace the misery fully and completely this weekend I have just the outing for you. The New York Botanical Garden has Amorphophallus Titanum that has not bloomed since 1939 and they think that it just might bloom this weekend. What, you say? What could be miserable about a rare blossom unfurling its petals for the first time in 77 years? Amorphophallos Titanum’s common name is Corpse Flower, and true to its name it smells of rotting flesh. The staff horticulturists noticed the bud last week and have actually set up a web cam so you can watch that here. This plant can grow up to 12’ tall and it takes years for it to bloom again. The bloom does not last long, just a few days and it is the botanical equivalent of an old man in a raincoat. It was once considered the official flower of the Bronx but they rethought that and now the day lily holds that honor.
So this weekend why not just decide to be miserable? To up that factor take Metro North to the Botanical Garden making sure that you seek out the car without air conditioning, perhaps with a bag with some long forgotten cheese in it and with the really loud cellphone talker, walk to the Botanical Garden from the station through air that you could use a machete on, and go admire a blossom that really needs a pair of pants and smells like death on toast. It’ll make Monday morning feel like a relief.
This week we have a formula, coming-of-age, a hit and run, Paris, Egypt, and some circus.
Kaitlyn from the Rock is here with what’s keeping her company during her shambles around our Hood. “Hiyoooo! I decided I needed a break from all the serious books I've been reading and listening to, so I'm now zipping through Dan Brown's Inferno. I feel like if you've read one of Dan Brown's books, you've read them all, but I still find his books to be fun summer reads. Robert Langdon? Check! Brilliant woman at his side? Check! Peculiar object that somehow only art historian extraordinaire can decipher? Check! Codes and clues galore? CHECK! In Inferno, Robert wakes up in a hospital in Florence, with no recollection of traveling to Italy or any memory of the past few days. As quickly as he wakes up, he is in trouble, with an assassin on his tail. He only knows that in his possession is a strange and potentially dangerous (art history) object. Robert and the mysterious Dr. Sienna Brooks, the doctor tending to him in the hospital, are on the run through Florence's medieval center, fleeing from the police and a ton of armed guards. But what is this strange object, and who is chasing them? Even though it's a bit formulaic, I'm finding myself eager to read it whenever I have a chance.”
Barbara M is in Brooklyn this week. Discuss. “I am reading an incredible book, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, about a young girl who moved to Brooklyn with her father and brother after being abandoned by her mother. If you want to categorize this novel it is a coming-of-age story but that would be minimizing it – it is more than that. Yes, it is a story about growing up but it is also a story about friendship and loss. Woodson’s writing is from the heart and therefore her characters seem real. Her poetic language and voice are so enchanting that I will read anything she writes.”
Sweet Ann has finished one of our most requested books **I Let You Go **by Clare Mackintosh. Here’s what she thought. ”If you are in the mood for an exciting, page-turner of a thriller, this book is for you. It has a hit and run, a death, two runaway women, a lonely run-down cottage in Wales, sexual tension in the office,(in this instance a police station), an abusive husband, an unhappy wife, etc. There are three narrators for the story. Jenna, who runs away after the hit and run, the police chief, Ray, investigating the crime who has his own problems at home and finally Ian who will tie the loose ends together. It is an engaging read with a few twists along the way. You will never look at writing in the sand in the same way after reading this novel.”
Babs B, aka The Blonde Barbara, is in Paris this week instead of Barbara M. Discuss. The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown is set in 1999 and Madeleine feels trapped by her controlling husband, a failing marriage and a life she never wanted. Madeleine's grandmother Margie was perfect and elegant, everything Madeleine was not. When Madeleine discovers Margie's diary detailing her wild, romantic trip to the Jazz Age Paris, Madeleine meets the grandmother she never knew...a woman who spent an exhilarating summer living on her own, writing in cafes and falling in love with a charismatic artist. Madeleine then decides to create her own Parisian summer, reconnecting to her love of painting and makes a fun circle of new creative friends. If you liked The Paris Wife this book is for you-a perfect summer read!”
Laura says that if you have a good understanding of Egyptian history, then Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt, by Yasmine El Rashidi, is your book. “Set in Cairo, the book is the story of three different summers in the life of a woman living through the tumultuous political changes that have ravaged Egypt since the assassination of Sadat. We never learn her name, but we get to know her fears, and her questions, which never seem to get answered. In the first summer, when she was six years old, her father goes missing, and it is not clear if he was taken by force to prison, to fight, to be killed, or if he left of his own accord to protect the family. The second part of the book focuses on her as a college student studying film. She and her cousin Dido form a contentious bond as she grapples to understand the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood who her cousin dangerously questions. In the third part, she is a writer chronicling the politics of the country when Mubarak is overthrown. At this point, her father surprisingly returns and yet she is unable to ask him directly what had happened to him. Her lack of speaking is a characteristic she developed because so many survived those many years by staying silent. Because Dido was not silent, he faced a very different future. The book felt like a memoir, especially the first part, but it is not, so I became confused with what genre I was reading. Even so, I was glad to read this insightful debut novel and am interested to read other books about Egypt and to get to know more about its history.”
Steph is here this week to share with you all a book we are both wild for. “Once a year or so, a new work of narrative non-fiction appears and takes the country by storm. This October, I predict that book will be Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy. This astonishing book, like The Boys in the Boat and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks before it, both tells an amazing human story and illuminates dark corners of American history at the same time. At the turn of the century, George and Willie Muse were young albino African-American brothers working in the tobacco fields, when they were suddenly stolen away from their mother Harriett and forced to perform for years in circus sideshows. The story of their kidnapping and poor treatment was handed down through the generations and used to keep naughty kids in line. But was it true? Macy does more than present the facts of the story—she presents the facts of life in the Jim Crow South. Get on hold for this now, because by October, the list will be a mile long.”
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from that State Up North with the final musings and of course The Playlist. What’s good Pats? “I’ve been noting the differences between vacationers here versus Darien and here’s what I’ve discovered. After school releases in June through the second week in July this place is like August in Darien. There’s parking easily available everywhere. You can get into any restaurant without a wait and the library is a cool calm place with lots of prime things available for check out. I am counting down the days until our own vacation. That number is eight. Here’s hoping all your vacation travels are safe, filled with great memories and plenty of great tunes worth talking about.”