A slide show — open without a subscription — of many old New Yorker covers on the theme of summer reading.
1. Why is summer reading considered different from other reading? I remember when the idea was you finally had a lot of leisure time, so you'd read something big and long, like Doris in "Goodbye, Columbus":
a nice waterproof iPod with an audiobook.
3. I tend to walk on land as my main summer exercise, so I get by with my iPhone, and I like an audiobook of something long and historical. History goes with walking, because it's a progression in time and place, and I'm finally getting to the end of the fourth volume of Robert Caro's biography of LBJ and overlapping it with a history of ancient Rome. I still associate the path alongside Lake Mendota — after the summer of 2014 — with "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich."
4. The best of the New Yorker covers is, I think, “Summer Adventures,” by Joost Swarte, from 2015. Do you agree? But I'm also fond of the very simple Sempé, just a woman lying on the face of the earth, looking into the clouds, which highlights the aspect of reading that is the part where you're not reading but thinking about what you have read (or is she just failing to read or forgetting what she's read?).
5. I like the 2007 cover “Big City Thrills,” by Adrian Tomine, even though it relies on a stereotype of New York tourists — boring, dumpy people with belly bags and frumpy shorts — because you can tell — though you can't see any words — the book the alienated girl is reading is "Franny & Zooey." The sightseeing bus is passing Radio City Music Hall, but it's "Catcher in the Rye," not "Franny & Zooey," where the main character goes to (and hates) Radio City. ("The Rockettes were kicking their heads off....")
5. I like that a little white dog — not the same breed — appears on the oldest cover (1937) and the 2014 cover.
6. The 2007 and the 2009 cover present an aesthetic issue I've been thinking about. When art depicts buildings (and other objects), you are — to some extent — displeased when things appear structurally unsound or gravity defying. In real life, any structure that's standing has taken proper account of reality, but you might nevertheless find it aesthetically displeasing if it looks unstable or liable to fall. That same standard carries over to works of art. This is only a general rule, and sometimes the defiance of gravity is delightful. I'm on the line as to what I think of the man climbing a stairway of books in the 2007 cover. Seems anti-book, no? The 2009 cover has a hammock attached to nothing and palm trees set in tiny flowerpots. That could annoy me, but I interpret it to mean that the woman is reading an escapist fantasy of some kind, an interpretation reinforced by the line of foliage at the bottom, which evokes the bottom edge of the well-known Rousseau painting "The Dream" (which may also explain the unnatural position of the figure).
7. When did summer reading change from big projects like "War and Peace" to escapist fare (or whatever it is now)? I googled "What kind of reading is summer reading?" and what I got was a lot of stuff about the importance of keeping children reading over the summer so they don't lose whatever ground they've gained over the school year. Why don't adults worry that they'll forget how to read if they don't keep forcing themselves through printed verbiage?
8. And yet you've come this far.
9. Good for you!
10. Lists should be 10 — don't you think? — for stability and an aesthetically pleasing sense of structure....