Call me “Ms. Ready for a Great Summer Read.”
Each summer at Houston’s own Brazos Bookstore, the store sponsors a new literary summer read—including programming, parties, and a cool window mural. Last year was the delicious Summer of Jane Austen—complete with tea and cake and catty comebacks. Previous years have included books by authors such as Marcel Proust, Miguel Cervantes, and Cormac McCarthy.
This year it is a whale of a read with Herman Melville’s nineteenth-century masterpiece, Moby-Dick. And you can swing by the store to pick up bookmarks and postcards by Jade Young, as well as custom Moby-Dick-themed activity books by the bookstore staff.
As a Houston Baptist English professor who has assigned this book many times, let me tell you a dirty little secret: the first 100 pages of this novel (or “Romance,” as the dark romantics preferred to call it) are some of the funniest lines in American literature. Sure, our hero Ishmael has trouble with the blues—who doesn’t? But at least whenever he finds himself “growing grim about the mouth,” he decides to “account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can”—where fascinating adventures await. His meeting with the unforgettable cannibal Queequeg and their subsequent friendship is required reading for anyone who has a pulse.
Don’t let the length of the novel intimidate you—it is a wildly experimental book with vivid characters from dramatically different walks of life, and you won’t regret reading one of American literature’s greatest artifacts. Even when some of my students have had a little resistance, once they have a taste of Melville’s imaginative renderings of his own real-life sea adventures, it is hard to put the book down. So, go ahead and sail away with Ishmael—there is plenty of megalomania, backstabbing, and philosophizing to have something for everyone, and I promise it is never boring. (Plus, if you ever interview with someone described as “a Captain Ahab,” you’ll want to know what that means.)
So what else is up with The Summer of Moby Dick?
According to Brazos Bookstore’s Laura Graveline, “We find it's always easier to get through hefty classics with some group solidarity, so to speak. We encourage everyone to come even if you've tried Moby Dick before and haven't been able to get through it. You can participate as much or as little as you like, you only need to bring yourself.”
The summer of events kicks off this Friday, June 8, with a kickoff party with crafts, costumes and sea shanties from Houston actor Philip Hays. Then a monthly book club discussion kicks off June 20 led by manager Mark Haber. There will also be a kids party July 7, and a screening of the classic 1957 Gregory Peck film adaptation July 12. A full schedule can be found here.
So, forget being a landlubber and dive on into a sea of words you will never forget; even the kids can get involved with a Middle Grade Book club for kids age 8-13, which will feature reading A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers, with that book club meeting on June 30th at 3 p.m. at the store, where the book can be purchased.
Brazos Bookstore's Summer of Moby-Dick kicks off with a party Friday, June 8, at 7 p.m. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. 713.523.0701. More info at brazosbookstore.com.