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How does summer factor into all this?

With THE summer here, will my intellectual posse put their feet up and enjoy arena rock and Dan Brown books?

Michael Dirda of Washington Post Book World tells me his taste gets not lighter but hotter: He likes “to feel the tropical heat, the glare of the sunshine, the suffocating humidity. This is the time to reread Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and Camus’ ‘The Stranger,’ to watch Peter O’Toole crossing endless sand in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ . . . . Summer is about intensity and incandescence and corruption and rottenness, and that’s why we love those old Somerset Maugham stories about clergymen going to seed in the tropics.”

New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross said he spent much of last summer at the beach, reading Proust -- because in a more relaxed state of mind “I can give something my attention, look at something colossal.” He points out that summer music festivals often include intense stuff. “At the European festivals, you’re confronted with some very dire forms of entertainment.”

Maybe as taste has flattened, we’ve ceased to compartmentalize by season. “I like what I like,” said novelist and Los Angeles magazine film critic Steve Erickson.

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He recalls reading “Wuthering Heights” one hot summer spent housesitting in West L.A. “A book like that can have the quality of a fever dream,” he said. “I don’t know if it would have been the same book if I’d read it when I was supposed to.”

-- Scott Timberg


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