Breakfast with Dr. Seuss
In honor of the upcoming movie The Lorax, green eggs and ham at IHOP
Dmitri Nabokov, the son of Vladimir Nabokov, who tended to the legacy of his father with the posthumous publication of a volume of personal letters, an unpublished novella and an unfinished novel that his father had demanded be burned, died on Wednesday in Vevey, Switzerland. He was 77.
SOMEWHERE over the Mississippi River I looked up from my book, glanced out the window, realized that my flight out of New York was actually in the air, that we seemed to be making good time, and that there was a slim chance I would make a tight connection in Texas and get to my first meeting in New Mexico. Duly noted. I glanced at the snaking river below me, took in the squared-off landscape, and plowed right back into my book.
To what did I owe this newfound oblivion about where I was? This insouciance about fraying schedules? This good cheer about the dismaying ritual of herding, shuffling, squeezing, starving, sitting and suffocating that characterizes air travel today?
To a good book. The right kind of good book. My heart and mind were plunged into an epic battle between good and evil, the struggle to establish a new world order, the heartbreak of love fractured by political imperative, the tragedy of families torn apart.
Dominique Browning describes how she has learned to love the type of literature that can keep her occupied during airport waits and airline flights. After years of trying (and failing miserably) to read scholarly magazine articles or classics of world literature while traveling, she finally discovered:
the literature that stands up to the tests of travel. The secret, dear reader, lies in narrative drive. Plain, old-fashioned, unrelenting, compelling storytelling. You’ve got to reach for the best-seller shelves. Which, until now, I had avoided with the mild disdain of the librarian who finds herself stamping withdrawal slips for the football team.
“What I want on a plane trip is a loud, beefy — even vulgar — but scintillating companion. Someone like Scott Turow, who commands attention but is refined enough to respect my intelligence.” Here are some of the other authors whose works fulfill her flying requirements:
- George R. R. Martin
- Sara Paretsky
- Patricia Cornwell
- P. D. James
- Sue Grafton
- Faye Kellerman
- John Mortimer
- Ruth Rendell
- Maeve Binchy
“All I want now, from a good airplane book, is transport. A sense of propulsion. I want to feel the rush of plot against my cheek. I want to know where I am going, and why. I’m willing to trade transport for transportation.”
Later in the year people here in the northern hemisphere will begin referring to this type of literature, which Browning calls airplane books, as beach reads.
I usually listen to audiobooks rather than reading printed books when traveling, mostly because one little iPod is a lot easier to carry than several big books, but I’ve found that the same type of reading is most suitable.
What are some of the books you’ve used to occupy yourself either while traveling or while sitting on the beach?
Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn describes the work of Bradley Craft, now senior used-book buyer at Seattle’s University Book Store, who, according to his mother, drew before he talked. For years Craft has been drawing caricatures of literary people.
“In caricature, exaggeration doesn’t entirely have to do with physicality,” says Craft. “Caricature has to do with capturing the attitude of the person portrayed.” Most of Craft’s subjects are flattered. A few are a little shocked. A very few have declined — thanks, but no thanks — to view the results. . . . Other than some wicked renderings of certain politicians, his portraits are meant to be a tribute. “I don’t draw people unless I have some level of affection for them … as affectionate as my somewhat twisted eye can make them,” he adds.
Since I can’t draw a lick myself (stick people are a challenge for me), I always marvel at what someone like Craft can do with such seeming ease. Apparently Gwinn can’t draw, either: “I can only admire the work, marvel at the ephemeral magic and be grateful that Craft’s work is one more ingredient in this city’s rich stew of literary culture.”