Lorin Stein on "beach reading"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Paris Review editor Lorin Stein is guest blogging for Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic this week, and in his first post he took on "beach reading." Namely, Stein hates the idea that what we read at the beach has to be vapid and disposable:

To me beach reading means (or ought to mean) reading without interruption—something most of us almost never get to do. It means reading to be absorbed.

And yet every June we see these lists of something else called "beach reading"—"lighter" stuff than we, presumably, beat our brains against the rest of the year ...

"Beach reading" only bugs me because it makes reading in general sound like a chore, and because it drapes a fake aura of naughtiness over mass market books, which sell millions of copies anyway and don't need the bad publicity. It's like calling a hot fudge sundae "decadent."

My favorite beach reading experience was the week I spent on a trip to Florida with my parents reading Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full. Challenging? Maybe not, but plowing through a thumping 704-page novel (in hardcover no less) that featured Wolfe's attempts to write booty-rap lyrics felt like something I could only pull off under a cabana with nothing better to do.