Dear Commons Community,
My wife, Elaine, and I are getting ready for our two-week vacation on Nantucket. Beach house, surf, sand and a lot of summer reading. Below is a short piece from the NY Times that asks the important question: Can you actually read at the beach?
A Book at the Beach!
Beach season is upon us, which means that lists of summer beach reading have begun to appear. They include books that are fat and credential-building, books that are fat and breezy, and books that Bertie Wooster would be reading if he were going to the South of France. The lists lead to an important question. Can you actually read at the beach? Or do you merely hold a book before your face as a blind for better beach-watching?
We have trouble reading at the beach. The sun moves. The wind tugs at the page as though it has finished it sooner than we have. Condiments and ice cream drip on the cover. One dip in the ocean and seawater, from still wet hands and knees, seeps into the pages.
This is why we loved the old mass-market paperbacks. They were cheap, dispensable, and at the beach they swelled up like the pulp they were. When dried, they never regained their shape. They looked forever like beach reading.
And then there is the new challenge of beach reading on an electronic apparatus. There are few things worse for an iPad, Kindle, Nook or Kobo than sand, salt spray and suntan lotion. On the beach, some of these appliances work better as a rear-view mirror than a reading device.
Our approach is to leave them home and go looking through the attic for an old Mickey Spillane. And if there are seals or surfers, dogs with Frisbees, shorebirds or tide pools, even sailboats in the distance, even that gets set aside. It’s enough if there are merely other people on the beach. We recline in the shade, hidden behind sunglasses, and watch America at ease on a soon to be summer day.