Summer reading: Pirates, poems and sharks
When letter-writers need to insert a note after they’ve already used a postscript, what do they do? Add a post-postscript, or, PPS.
Those three letters also apply to my reading plans this summer, which center on three simple topics.
Pirates. Poems. Sharks.
The pirates belong to former British poet laureate Andrew Motion, who continues the story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” in his forthcoming novel, “Silver: Return to Treasure Island” (Crown: $24, August). Stevenson’s classic cunningly leaves much unsettled at the story’s end — how would Stevenson do in today’s sequel-driven market? Just imagine! — and now the children of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver join up to continue the hunt for buried loot.
And what does young Jim need the most? His father’s famous map (of course!).
“I was imagining how I would creep silently to my father’s bedside as he slept, slip the key from around his neck, open the chest, riffle through its contents until I found the map, remove it, lock the chest again, return the key, then make my escape…" Which he does, though not without considerable guilt. Then he — and Silver’s daughter Natty — are off on a thrilling adventure. So are readers.
As for the poems, Simon Armitage has given us some brilliant renditions of Old English poems, but he’s not primarily a translator. His true lyrical gifts are on display in his new collection “The Shout” (Alfred A. Knopf: $16.95, June), which tell stories of revenge, tragedy, marital discord and more. Nothing seems better-suited for an evening around the barbecue pit — except, maybe, a guitar singalong — than a dose of Armitage’s irreverent, annoyed, amusing, caustic verse.
Take “Poem,” for instance, which gives us the blunt truths about a family man and devoted son:
And for his mum he hired a private nurse.
And every Sunday taxied her to church.
And he blubbed when she went from bad to worse.
And twice he lifted ten quid from her purse.
Here’s how they rated him when they looked back:
sometimes he did this, sometimes he did that.
Try that one out while you’re eating s’mores.
And where sharks are concerned, there is Jonathan Kathrein’s “Surviving the Shark: A Surfer’s Terrifying Tale of a Brutal Attack by a Great White” (Skyhorse Publishing: $24.95, July) written with his mother, Margaret Kathrein.
On that August day in 1998, Jonathan was just 16, looking for good wave action at Stinson Beach in Northern California. Plenty of surfers were out in the water, but he recalls being detached from the group when the attack happened. “The shark slammed into me full force from below … my body heaved with the impact,” he writes. The shark grabbed him by the leg, and Jonathan fought for his life until, miraculously, the shark let him go. It’s a gripping account that also describes his recovery and the media blitz that soon followed.
If you want people to notice you at the beach, but you don’t have a fitness trainer’s body, take this book along with you. Heads will turn.