What to Read on the Subway This Week: 7/16
This week, conjure up some old memories with a retrospective podcast, peek in at a dysfunctional New England family, laugh at stories of wedding announcements, and revisit an old classic with a fresh perspective.
On Your Kindle
Maine, by J. Courtenay Sullivan
To borrow from Tolstoy, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This line could have transcended centuries and continents and made its way to Maine, to the opening page of J. Courtenay Sullivan’s sophomore novel about the complicated relationship among family members, set against a quaint New England backdrop.
Four women of the Kelleher family—matriarch Alice, black sheep Kathleen, granddaughter Maggie, and perfectionist daughter-in-law Ann Marie—narrate during the month of June, when they all plan to reunite at the family’s beach house in Maine. The women are all vastly different, and they don’t even seem to like each other much, but the memories that unite them keep them returning to the same place over and over again. The dialogue is often very funny, and the detail—both historic and vivid—with which Sullivan imbues her tale makes it a good summer read (that will make you thankful for your own family).
On Your Smartphone
Wedded Blitz: A Hall of Fame Entry! by Katie Baker
With wedding season in full force, our budgets are being stretched by bridal showers and destination wedding trips, our newsfeeds are inundated with pictures of rings and gowns, and our favorite news sites might even feature a wedding or two. In this hilarious Grantland series, Katie Baker goes through the New York Times’ wedding announcements with a fine-toothed comb. She parses each sentence, commenting on the absurdities (and occasional sweetnesses) that comprise the brief love stories of New York’s wedded elite. If you’re fresh from a wedding (or two) this past weekend, laugh over this article on your commute today.
On a Podcast
Summer’s a wonderful time for nostalgia. These sun-soaked days recall memories of lazy beach trips, drippy ice cream cones, and cookouts with family and friends. If you’re still reminiscing come Monday morning, check out the archive of podcasts from The Retroist, which offers retrospective ponderings on past highlights. Tune into shows featuring such old-timey staples as The Golden Girls, Duck Tales, and The Game of Life this week.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
If the Retroist podcasts have started you reminiscing about old classics—or if Maine has you thinking “there’s no place like home”—then open a copy of this beloved childhood tale (almost better-known for its 1939 film adaptation) by L. Frank Baum. Dorothy’s story is part adventure saga, part fairy tale: She befriends a feisty scarecrow, a loving tin man, and a timid lion in an alternate universe as she fights a wicked witch and makes her way home.
It’s a fantasy, yes, but it’s also an allegory for the tribulations of the American everyman of the early 20th century. Baum was, allegedly, particularly interested in populism and the conflict over the gold standard. Enjoy the old tale, and then check out this article on the story as an allegory.
Photo courtesy of Mo Riza.
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