In case you have outgrown summer reading lists or already finished yours, I have a suggestion: Harold Brodkey’s short story collection “First Love and Other Sorrows”. Brodkey accomplishes a seemingly impossible feat: the stories are entertaining, extremely enjoyable to read, and, at the same time, intellectually challenging. In a non-exhausting way, which is why this is the perfect book for a vacation: You feel smart when reading it, but will not feel compelled to put it down in favor of so-called chick lit or the equivalent for guys.
|Also a great idea: Enjoying it with a cup of tea and thinking of Fall|
The book was first published in 1958, so the stories will take you back to the 1940s and 50s. They tell the story of youth and early adulthood; the protagonists are between 13 and 27 years old, growing older in every story.
Brodkey tells the story of a boy who wants to be loved by others but does not want to give his love first, of another who watches how is beautiful sister is courted by men and finally takes a shot at love himself, and of two Harvard boys who travel to France instead of going to college where they discover that their friendship is not as strong as they thought it was and that they are not completely unlike the people they call “doomed”.
My favorite is “Sentimental Education”, the story of a couple falling in love for the first time in college and how they try to make sense of their passions.
The last four stories describe episodes in the life of Laura, from her dating days in college until her second pregnancy in her mid-twenties.
Especially the language is beautiful, and the voice captivating. Just read this: “At that her tears started to flow, and it seemed to her that she had found one of the secret springs of sadness that water the whole world.” (excerpt from The Dark Woman of the Sonnets) I promise you, there are many similar gems. Brodkey is definitely an author I will be reading a lot more of, I cannot believe I had not heard of him before stumbling upon this book at the library.
What are your non-fluffy but enjoyable reading suggestions for late summer and early fall?