My Summer Readings
In Indonesia, there are only sunny days and rainy days. We don’t really know when our summer starts or ends. However, while people in other countries start with their list of fictions as their summer readings, we also don’t want to be left behind.
This last month, I finished two remarkable pieces of work. The first one is ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore‘ by Robin Sloan (2012). It tells a story about a jobseeker who finally got a job as a bookstore attendant. The seemingly boring night-shift job turned into a fascinating adventure when the protagonist began to notice that his customers were not average normal ones. His curiosity turned into investigation which opened his eyes about the existence of a hundreds year-old cult trying to preserve conventional books from extinction.
The premise of a twenty-something guy who worked in a bookstore attracted me in the first place. It reminded me to the premise of my favourite ever, ‘High Fidelity‘ by Nick Hornby, in which the protagonist ran a record store. However, I was quite stunned by the shifting of ‘Mister Penumbra’s‘s plot into a quite surreal adventure that felt like something coming out of any Neil Gaiman’s works. Thankfully, I like Gaiman’s too, so I could still enjoy Robin Sloan’s unforgettable debut.
The second book I read was a bleak but heartwarming tale by Jhumpa Lahiri. Entitled ‘The Lowland‘, it circles around the life of two brothers who lived in a rural village in India. As they grew up, the elder wanted to pursue a more meaningful life he thought he could only found in the USA, while the younger was devoted to stay in India and joined an armed rebel group afterwards. When his brother died in a fight against Indian government, the elder had to marry his brother’s wife to take care of their orphaned baby daughter. The couple then moved to the USA but found that love was already absent in the first place.
I have been a reader of Lahiri’s previous works. Not an avid reader, but her two works managed to keep me in my seat until I finished the stories. I haven’t read her third book, ‘Unaccustomed Earth‘, but I found her first, ‘Interpreter of Maladies‘ and her second, ‘The Namesake‘, adorably thought-provoking. The principal idea Lahiri always talks about is a question of identity, while the next idea that follows is about the absence of love in a relationship. Those are just simplifications I say in my own words, since Lahiri’s explorations are surely more profound.
Nevertheless, I found the same haunting impression after reading ‘The Lowland‘ as when I finished ‘Maladies‘ and ‘The Namesake‘ years ago. Again, Lahiri drove her readers to think deeper about meaning of life, love, companionship and well, loneliness. Some people may find that the plots of her works quite slow, but I regard the slow-moving story of ‘The Lowland’ as a careful excavation of the readers’ own life reflections.
What about your summer readings?