Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Right Book

Tricked into a forty-mile bike ride on a country trail famous for its pub, I did not get to stop at the popular ___ Tap. No, we rode eight miles past it to the end of the trail and spent half an hour at a picnic shelter drinking Gatorade instead of getting soused on beer.

Everything would have been fine if I had brought a well-written, interesting book. Engrossed in a novel and sipping from a jug of Gatorade, I can refuel my mind and body. But if I'm stuck with a bad book, it can be irritating. I attempted to read Erica Jong's best-selling '70s novel Fear of Flying, because Elaine Showalter writes about it in her book about American women's literature, A Jury of Her Peers. Oh my God. This is like pretending Valley of the Dolls is a classic. This one goes directly to the charity sale. (Don't trust Showalter. Her edition of the Library of America Little Women is also full of typos.)

When I got home, I decided to gather some books specifically to be taken on bicycling trips so I don’t get fooled again. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Jon Hassler’s The Dean’s List. I’ve been meaning to read Hassler since I discovered that one of his novels is published by Loyola Press. The Dean’s List, according to the cover synopsis, is about a dean who has “to save his beloved campus from diminished enrollment, hockey thuggery, and its ignoble associations with Paul Bunyan."

2. Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare. According to Carl Van Doren’s foreword, “It is not a allegory, but a narrative seen from a point of view which is new to fiction: a midget’s-eye view of the world....There are touches of Dickens in the novel, and of farce."

3. Ruth Suckow’s The Bonney Family. The Bonney family moves from a tiny, secure parsonage in a village to a small college town iafter Mrs. Bonney recognizes that her children need a better education. Unsentimental, it covers a number of years and the children’s coming of age. (What I've read is pretty good.)

Okay! Now I’m set.

P.S. Bicyclists on a pub crawl can get a bit woozy and dehydrated - and crash! The orange poles barring the trail from the road have been run over many times.

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