The Sunday Salon: Summer Reading, Summer Fashion

The Sunday

It’s not Sunday, but since I’ve got a full weekend, I’m posting my Sunday Salon piece early.

As of this evening, I have only one more Elin Hilderbrand novel left to read. It’s her most recent The Island, and I’m both eager and afraid to begin. Eager because I’m really enjoying my virtual summer on Nantucket via her works, and afraid because if it’s disappointing, or too short or anything like that it will be as bad as a storm wrecking an actual vacation.

Okay, so maybe not that bad.

I’ve noticed that Hilderbrand’s female characters are always three-dimensional, but her male characters are not so well drawn. They could be mannequins from high-end big and tall clothing stores, each in a different color (mainly pastel) polo shirt and pressed khaki pants and topsiders – the quasi-uniform of men in technology and men with summer homes on coastal islands.

My husband also lives in polo shirts and khaki pants, but unlike the men in Hilderbrand’s novels, his are not pastels. Instead, they are dark: black, grey, forest green, navy blue. He has four sets: those made out of sturdy cotton blends, those made out of lighter cotton blends (and which he says are too ‘flimsy’ for work, though the softer cloth fits his slight form better), those with his own company’s logo on front, and those with the logos of his vendors – Cisco, Foundry, etc.

He never wears the vendor shirts anywhere nice – like me, he has a strong aversion to wearing anything with writing on it outside the house. The few exceptions for him are the shirts from ThinkGeek – one refers to Firefly the other to Star Wars in gently humorous, inoffensive ways. For me, the exceptions are vintage rock band t-shirts and the artsy tees from foreign Hard Rock Cafes. The long sleeve, but lightweight, Tokyo shirt is one of my favorites, and the Hong Kong one is a fave as well. (Both, btw, are designed in much the same way as a vintage rock band t-shirt.)

The women in Hilderbrand’s novels also get better clothes than the men: she name drops designers that are represented by her characters – everything from Kate Spade to Diane von Furstenberg, and from Donna Karan to Liz Claiborne to – for teens – Juice Couture.

Summer novels are great escapes. Through them you can imagine yourself eating grapes and organic cheese and sipping chilled chardonnay on a beach blanket with the Atlantic Ocean flirting with your toes, or you can flip a few pages and find yourself dressed in designer togs and dining at the hottest bistro in town, accompanied by an attractive, but not exciting, man in a pastel polo shirt.

Ahh, summer.

But Can You Use It in the Bathtub?

Generally speaking, I do try to do as much green shopping as possible. I refuse plastic grocery bags, instead using my own cloth bags, I try to find things in the least amount of packaging, and when I’m forced to use veggie bags, I always reuse them. Even though I still haven’t broken my addiction to water bottles, those that we buy are used multiple times (first for water, then for filling the dogs’ dishes, then for dog toys) before they’re finally sent to the recycling bin.

But I still haven’t made the leap to e-books.

Oh, I have a few on my iPhone, and one or two on my computer, but since a good portion of my reading is done on the toilet or in the tub, I still buy actual books. A lot. And most of them are NOT from used bookstores, because I think they smell funny.

But now Amazon has a Kindle on sale for only $139, a price I’m willing to pay. I mean, I’ve paid more for other devices I barely use, and the reality is that if I had something bigger than the iPhone screen and lighter to hold than a computer, I probably WOULD use such an e-reader.

And of course, my birthday’s in a few weeks.

So, I’m actually considering asking Fuzzy for a Kindle.

Yeah, I know…Scary.

Review: Love in Mid Air, by Kim Wright

Love in Mid Air
Love in Mid Air
by Kim Wright

When author Kim Wright offered me a copy of her novel, Love in Mid Air to review, I had to say yes, because even though there’s an abundance of contemporary women’s fiction available on the market, there aren’t many really good stories where the protagonist is around my age (for the record, I’ll be 40 in about three weeks) – generally what I find are stories about women in their twenties and thirties, or women in their fifties and beyond. Forty, apparently, is not a sexy age to write about. (This needs to change. Modern forty-year-olds might technically be middle aged, but most of us look, act, and feel much younger, and lead rich, vibrant lives full of potential.)

I was in the middle of yet another Elin Hilderbrand novel when Ms. Wright’s book arrived, and then I got distracted by something else, but I finished it a couple of days ago, and I have to say it was thoroughly enjoyable, and even plausible.

Elyse, a nearly forty-year-old Southern woman with a young daughter and a pottery studio in her garage, is on her way back from a trip to the Southwest, when she meets a fellow traveler, Gerry. As can often happen when you’re stuck rubbing elbows in the back of the coach class on an airplane, the two struck up a conversation, one that was almost instantly loaded with chemistry. Despite the fact that their flight lands late, making both have to literally sprint for their connecting flights (she to her Southern suburban home, he to New England), they recognize a spark between them, and even though both are married to other people, they take a moment to share the perfect airport kiss.

Reading this at the same time that I’m watching (and trying to be supportive of) two of our close friends struggling with their marriage, I completely got it. Elyse and her husband Phil, from the outside, had a great relationship, but people outgrow each other, and her needs, those of a grown woman with an education and an artistic soul, were not being met.

The plot point of Elyse and Gerry having an affair (one where they only see each other once a month or so, for long weekends, in cities where neither lives), may be a bit predictable, but the affair isn’t really the point of this novel. It’s merely a catalyst, a device used to illustrate Elyse’s growing dissatisfaction with her current way of life.

Fortunately, Elyse is supported by other strong women, who serve as confidantes (especially in the case of her long-time friend Kelly, who once had an affair of her own), and a sort of Greek chorus. While none of them knows what’s really going on, each has her own issues, and even “throwaway” lines give us glimpses into the secret lives of suburban church women.

While this book is never going to be topping the list of gifts for men at redenvelope, it isn’t at all chick lit. It’s a satisfying, well written, incredibly candid novel about adult women and adult relationships, and how all of us find ourselves in mid air – figuratively, at least – at some point in our lives.

Would I recommend this book as a gift, though? Yes. I’d recommend it to women who want to write, to women who are roughly my age, and even a bit older or younger. I’d gift it to my women friends (and, in fact, will be passing my own copy on to my mother when she comes to visit in August), and to select members of my family. I think giving a book as a gift is much better than giving anything that is a mere object, because with a book, you are giving a few hours of reading pleasure, and the gift of imagination.

Goes well with: Unsweetened iced tea and a chicken Caesar salad.