Books: Pythonga Reads

by anneMoore on July 16, 2012

I read all the time but there’s one place on earth I read most: Club Lac Pythonga in Quebec. My husband’s family has had a summer home there since the 1960’s. It’s a magical place deep in the woods, cut off from the Internet, cell phones, newspapers, cars. A central kitchen serves family dinners, freeing home cooks from planning, shopping and preparing meals. (That defines “vacation” for me.)  There’s a long clear lake, great for distance swims or just hopping in to cool off. Sandy beaches and boat docks give us space to sun, play, socialize — and read.

I am just returned from Pythonga, where I read and loved three novels, two newly published and one from the 1930’s.

Thad Ziolkowski’s “Wichita” (Europa Editions, 2012) is the heartwrenching story of Lewis Chopik, newly graduated from Columbia University, returned home with an emotional limp. His longtime girlfriend V., an enchanting but demanding academic, has left him for a more promising man.

Even though she’s offstage, V. is very much present: Lewis pines for her and her classy East Coast life, all of which he’s lost. It’s an important contrast, because Lewis’s home life in Wichita is the flip side. It’s the kooky, sometimes sleazy, often frightening middle of America.

Lewis’s mother Abby is a beautiful nut; she runs a small ponzi game among friends and has just opened a storm-chasing business. One of her boyfriends lives inside the house; the other lives in a tent beside the house. Brother Seth is also home, a self-medicating bi-polar college drop out. Seth’s death-wish is the central story of this book.

Ziolkowski is a poet; this is a finely wrought book with interesting, dimensional characters. Abby, in particular, is more grounded than she first appears.

Dawn Powell’s “Turn, Magic Wheel,” (1936) is the book to read if last year’s “Rules of Civility,” by Amor Towles, left you wanting more 1930’s New York. Powell (1896 -1965) was a Greenwich Village writer of novels, plays, screenplays and short stories.

“Turn, Magic Wheel” is the drama of a life story stolen, for literary gain.

Effie Callingham is the loyal first wife of a Hemingway-like author who abandoned her. Dennis Orphen, a novelist, befriends the lovely Effie, then betrays her by writing a book based on her oddly stalled life. This is a delicious premise, and Powell makes us feel Effie’s hurt.

A witty, wonderful satire of New York literary life in the 1930’s.

I finished my week of lakeside reading with Richard Ford’s “Canada,” (Harper Collins, 2012.) In Grand Falls, Montana fifteen-year old Dell Parsons narrates the 1960 summer that changes his life, when his seemingly wholesome parents rob a South Dakota bank.

Ford keeps us in Grand Falls and the Parsons home for a good long time; we come to know and like his parents and his twin sister. With Dell, we mourn this family’s dissolution.

Their parents imprisoned, his twin runs away. Dell is taken to a friend’s family in Saskatchewan, where he is cared for and employed by a hotel owner with a dark American past.

This one gave me book grief: it’s so good I didn’t want it to end, and once it did, nothing I pick up can compare.

3 responses to “Books: Pythonga Reads”

  1. Mary Lou Hughes says:

    Hi Anne, I don’t believe we’ve met but my husband’s family have been members at Pythonga since the early 70’s. Every year I invariably pack more books than clothes and still can manage to run out of things to read! You have to have the “boat book”, something if it gets wet, no big deal. Then the “porch book” and “beach book” and of course the book to read until the generator goes off! My kids have grown up looking forward to their week in camp with no tv and now, no cell phones. That is a true blessing. I look forward to meeting up with you some time at the lake! And yes I loved “Rules of Civility” hence, I’ve requested the Dawn Powell suggestion. I work at the twp library so I’m always on the look out for new titles, please keep them coming!

  2. Great job here. I really enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you definitely bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Well, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see more of this from you.

  3. Good information. Lucky me I discovered your site by chance (stumbleupon). I’ve bookmarked it for later!