What is A/S Reading? – No. 10
You know when you just really want to stay in curled up with a really amazing book and a cup of spiked hot cocoa? Exactly. This is What is A/S Reading?
Tales from the City is the first book in a series that I started at the end. 2007’s postscript, Michael Tolliver Lives, is a bittersweet coda to the six serial novels that followed a cast of flawed and lovable characters bumbling through their youths and middle-ages in over-the-top 1970s and ’80s San Francisco. These are sweet, comforting books. That’s not to say they’re cloying–there’s plenty of cheating and suicide and bathhouse adventures and sharp-tongued banter. But they’re comforting because the people in them make mistakes and still love each other, and are often funny. And it’s all doled out in snack-like two-and-half-page chapters. The best bedtime reading I can imagine.
Managing Editor Adam Read-Brown is currently halfway through Ivan Turgenev’s novella First Love, originally published in 1860. It is mildy reminiscent of Dickens’ Great Expectations, which was published in the same year:
I actually regret starting this last night before going to bed — it is so short (a slim 100 pages) that it could easily be tackled in a single sitting, were one to allot the appropriate amount of time. There is something about immersing oneself in a story fully and not coming up for air until the end that feels qualitatively different from the average start and stop of novel reading. Short stories are designed to be consumed this way, novels not so much. Novellas, it turns out, just require a little planning. As for First Love, it’s lovely. Poor Vladimir Petrovich recounts to friends the story of his first (doomed!) love at the age of sixteen for the twenty-one-year-old (and out of his league) Zinaida. This is teen passion and angst in its purest form: “It is sweet to be the sole source, the arbitrary and irresponsible source, of the greatest joys and profoundest miseries to someone else.”
In truth, I’m having more trouble writing about The Adults than any other novel I’ve read. There is something so terrifically honest, so inherently big, that I can’t quite sum it up in a few sentences. At surface value, Espach’s debut effort is a simple coming of age story featuring 14-year-old Emily Vidal growing up in affluent Connecticut. But, at its core, it is about the uncertainty and confusion of adolescence, and Espach captures it flawlessly. From her parents failing marriage to an affair she begins with her high school English teacher—nine years her senior—Emily is depicted with a sharpness that is hard to match. As a character she is equally capable of believing in the magic of daydreams as she is in feeling the weight of reality, a testament to the fine line between being a child and being an adult. In a perfect world, The Adults would also be in the teen section at the local library. Of course, this isn’t a perfect world, and even if it were, it would probably be banned by parents (almost always the sign of a great book).