Posts Tagged ‘The Summer We Read Gatsby’

It’s peach sesaon, and I’m in heaven. Peaches morning, noon and night. Carolina peaches, Georgia peaches, even California peaches when I can’t get the others. Do I dare to eat a peach — even if it looks as if it may be a little green? You betcha. Thankfully, the juice runs down my chin. Perfect.

The peaches in the painting on the cover of Allegra Goodman’s new novel, The Cookbook Collector, look lovely, all ripe and ready. I probably would have bought the hardback for the cover alone, except I was on the road and downloaded a sample for the nook. A few delicious pages into this tale of two sisters navigating the dot.com world of the late ’90s, and I knew I wanted  more. So I clicked the “buy” button. Instant gratification.

This is what both pleases and annoys me about e-books. It’s great to sit in a hotel room at night, order a sample from B&N.com, and then satisfy my literary cravings. But all I have of that gorgeous cover is a color thumbnail. Because, yes, sometimes  — ok, many times — I’ve prejudged a book by its cover while browsing in a store and then bought the book, especially if it’s by an author I don’t know. Most recently, Danielle Ganek’s The Summer We Read Gatsby. Great cover, and the book was good enough that I don’t regret my decision. Sometimes I get snookered — the “Twilight” series, for instance, with its masterful marketing — but then I pass on the offending volumes. My trash will be someone else’s treasure.

Coincidentally, the same evening I started The Cookbook Collector, I also caught a rerun of Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” the episode in which contestants were challenged to design a cover for a Penguin classics title. The winner would see his or her cover on the real book in stores. Very interesting. Obviously, several artists were not readers. One poor dear admitted she’d never read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but still thought she she knew all about Jane and “Darby.” In the end, her watercolor based on a semi-nude photo of herself was embarassingly bad (although not the disaster of another contestant), and it didn’t help that her book was by Jane “Austin.”

Several other artists put their high concepts of “art” above the books’ contents, i.e. , the “disaster.” But kudos to Tom, who took the time to read all of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein before starting his project. The eventual winner (spoiler alert) was John, for H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Love the little ladder. And Mark’s striking cover for Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a well-deserved second. I’d buy both books — and I already have copies, just with different covers.

When it comes to books and peaches, I’m incorrigible.

Open Book: As noted, I bought the e-book of The Cookbook Collector (Random House Publishing Group) and the hardcover of The Summer We Read Gatsby (Penguin). I need to restock on peaches.

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I love the cover and title of Danielle Ganek’s The Summer We Read Gatsby. The book, not so much. Oh, it’s a pleasant summer beach tale — two half-sisters living for a month in the rickety Hamptons cottage inherited from an eccentric aunt.  But I was led on by the Fitzgerald references, and the publishers’ blurb, “a delightful comedy of manners,” to expect something a little more substantive, say, on the order of a novel by Cathleen Schine or Elinor Lipman.

Ganek uses Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as a touchstone, and she occasionally makes some pertinent observations. Older sister and actress Peck, 32, eventually confesses to journalist sibling Cassie, 28, that she thought the book was a romance on first reading and confused it with with the great love of her youth, Miles Noble.

Wealthy Miles reappears on the scene, throwing a Gatsby-themed party at his magnificently tacky and huge new mansion. Peck, given to extravagant outfits and italicized statements is sure that this means Miles wants her back. After all, he gave her a copy of the book during their initial courtship. So imagine her disappointment upon learning that a party-planner chose the theme and Miles has never read the book!

Cassie also rediscovers love with neighboring architect Finn, but it’s a bit of a bumpy ride before there’s the obligatory montage of the two lovers picknicking on the beach, strolling hand-in-hand, etc. (Cue appropriate music, maybe the theme from A Summer Place.)

And, oh yes, there’s a little bit of mystery involving the theft of a possible Jackson Pollack painting, the true agenda of a young artist claiming to be Aunt Lydia’s last protege, and the question of whether the sisters will sell their shabby-chic legacy. The engaging characters eat and drink merrily along, as fashionina Peck encourages Cassie to be more bold in her life and wardrobe choices.

Ganek writes well, and the story has the briskness of a sea breeze until she starts to wrap everything up. Then it deflates, its frothiness dissolving like a footprint in the sand before a pert epilogue.  Awwww. I wanted more. I expected more. Ganek promised more. So I am rereading The Great Gatsby.

Open Book: I bought my copy of Danielle Ganek’s The Summer We Read Gatsby (Viking) but at a nice discount. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has long had a place of honor in my permanent collection.

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