The first story I chose was one I had wanted to re-read for a while, “A Summer’s Reading” by Bernard Malamud. It’s also one that seems a fitting choice for my first post. I have a difficult time explaining why I like Malamud so much, but I do. I’ve read a few of his novels and many of his short stories by now.
“A Summer’s Reading” is a brief dip into the life of George Stoyonovich, a high school dropout spends much of his day secluded in his apartment that he shares with his father and sister. In response to a friendly question from a neighbor, Mr. Cattanzara, George shares his plan to read 10o books from the public library. Soon, word has spread throughout the neighborhood and George finds he has newfound respect even from his father and sister who have heard the neighborhood gossip. “Occasionally he bought a paperback book from the newstand, but he never got around to reading it, though he was glad to have a couple of books in his room.”
George tries avoiding Mr. Cattanzara but finds him on the street late one night when he is asked how the reading is going. “George knew he looked passable on the outside, but inside he was crumbling apart.” George’s father and sister eventually figure out the truth but his neighbors still question him about his books when he’s on the street unaware of his deception.
The end of the story finds George in the library “where he hadn’t been in years” and he “…then sat down at a table to read.”
On the surface, there’s not much to admire about George. You could justifiably call him lazy and dishonest. But there’s desire in him to be more than what he is and to have others see him for something better than what he sees in himself, even if it’s not based on the truth. By the time George wanders into the library at the end of the story and sets down to actually read, I have this faint hope he might just do it while knowing he’ll most likely wander away after after pages.