Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Summer Lament

Summer – and is the living easy, you ask? No, the living is hot, mosquito-y, and full of charcoal grilled meat and the skirls of small, snotty children. Ah, summer. Full of my least favorite things. Sweat, bugs, fireworks. Shorts. Naked toes. It was only a few months ago that I was knee deep in rain, longing for the impossible (a suntan), and here I am lamenting this time of barbecues, biting flies, and potato salad.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a summertime curmudgeon. I’m much more a winter gal, a fan of fall. I like cold weather, curl-up-with-a-book-weather, write until your fingers thaw… weather. Everything about the chillier seasons seems, well, better. Fall, my editor tells me, is when the “serious” books come out. All the good fiction, especially. It’s when the Oscar-bait movies show themselves in their celluloid glory, the Meryls and the Seymour Hoffmans and the Winslets. Kids buy shiny textbooks and fresh notebooks and head back to the halls of academia. (Sure you kind of dreaded it back then, but who doesn’t love new school clothes? Unless of course you shared my pious fate and had a new Catholic school uniform to look forward to, made of a burlap-polyester hybrid.) Fall. Even now, I can taste it. Pumpkins. Halloween. Pie. (Okay, a perennial favorite.) And yet it seems so far away.

Just as the rest of the world breaks out their cursed grills and releases their annoying children from school, the writing world shuts down. Agents and editors disappear to, well, wherever it is that agents and editors disappear to – perhaps a sun-bathed island where their pale skin, free from their dark, cocooned Manhattan high-rises, can be irradiated by actual sun rays. Literary journals close up shop because all their student readers and professor/department head/editors have gone home to blacken meat and enjoy family barbecues while their children shoot off fireworks, terrifying dogs everywhere.

Why does summer suck? Why do people get excited about bad popcorn movies and flimsy fiction, the brightly colored tomes with skinny, cartoon women in bathing suits and/or tin foil-covered thrillers about the Vatican? When did baking yourself (and your brain) on the beach become a vacation? Are we not supposed to think during the hot months? What, will we melt? I know, I know. I’ve officially become the cranky old person down the street.

So sue me. I’m going to miss the literary seasons. No more trips to the Post Bot to mail submissions, no last minute re-writes. It’s the lazy, crazy, smog-hazy days of summer, and now that my NEA fellowship paperwork is in order (fingers crossed!), my book has found a home, and my stories are all out there collecting dust on desks in empty universities, I’ll have to wait out the fallow time. Do a little travelling, see the country, see the folks. Maybe I’ll even do some long-postponed joining and get with Facebook and Goodreads. (And no, that adorable cheerleader on Facebook named Elizabeth Eslami, from Iowa, is not me. You could’ve knocked me over with some lightweight chick lit fiction. I have a doppelganger? You mean I wasn’t the only person with an Iranian name in rural America? Did she too endure the endless Salamis and Islams?)

Whatever happens during my literary hibernation, here’s hoping for a quick, painless season. I plan on gritting my teeth til the leaves change again. And in the meantime, if you see someone awkwardly standing on a patio while holding a charred hot dog and flailing at mosquitoes, that’ll be me. Just don’t ask me if I can recommend any light summer reading.

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