Tag Archives: beach reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sea and the Imagination

Man at the Wheel, Gloucester, Massachusetts
Man at the Wheel, Gloucester, Massachusetts

I love the water, but as a Midwesterner, the ocean holds a special fascination because we don’t have one. Granted, the Great Lakes are big enough and fierce enough in bad weather to give the feeling of the ocean and the same waves of motion sickness wash over on me on rough water, salty or fresh. But there’s just something about the ocean that launches my imagination into overdrive.

First there are the tides. We visited friends one summer who live on a Pacific coast inlet.  When we arrived we were oceanside. The next morning the water was gone and the boats all sat in the sand awaiting high tide to float them again.  This was a freaky, Stephen King-like experience for a “lake person.”

The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald aside, the ocean simply carries a bigger cargo of tales, from Moby Dick to Captains Courageous to The Perfect Storm and about a zillion classic novels in between.  Gloucester, Mass., a real fishing town north of Boston, offers one of the best places to hang out and absorb a heavy dose of the maritime atmosphere that makes those stories come to life. You’ll get a double dose if you attend the Gloucester Schooner Festival this weekend.

Sailing the harbor, Gloucester, Mass.
Sailing the harbor, Gloucester, Mass.

Finally, few things are more pleasurable than being sea-side, dozing intermittently, lulled by the warmth of the sun, a view of the ocean, the sound of the surf, and the coconutty smell of sunscreen on your skin. I just read a post from a blog I follow, Jenn’s Bookselves, in which she writes about how much the venue in which we read a novel, can affect our

Beach reading, Rockport, Mass.
Beach reading, Rockport, Mass.

feelings and reading experience.  I nominate surfside as one of the best places to read, though it’s important to do so with books that give your brain a chance to relax along with the rest of your body.  So raise your pina colada and your copy of anything by Carl Hiassen. Here’s to beach reading.

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Beach Reading in Florida

I just spent a few days in the charming St. Augustine, Florida, area.  Packed with history, fun restaurants, and beautiful beaches—St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach—the area offers fun for just about everyone.  I sipped a beer and  my 80-plus-year-old mother downed a pina colada on the porch of a bar called Scarlett O’Hara’s where we ran into a fun group of women visiting St. Augustine from St. Louis.  They recommend the city for a great girls’ weekend, though it looked like their trip was shaping up to be a bit rowdier than our mother-daughter jaunt. Stayed at the Hampton Inn–right on the beach. Very nice staff.

But, since my view is always through a literary lens, I have to offer a few thoughts for Florida-related beach reading and maybe some heavier reading when you’re not on the beach.  Here’s a screamingly mixed bag of  Florida writing that provides an interesting cultural perspective, especially for Yankees like me….

For some St. Augustine-related fiction, try Eugenia Price’s “Florida Trilogy” of  Maria, Don Juan McQueen, and Margaret’s Story.  Good old fashioned romance.  Zora Neale Hurston, was born in Florida. Check out her biography: Dust Tracks on a Road and the classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Then there’s the always entertaining satirical writer, Carl Hiassen, the “blazing conscience of the Sunshine State.”  According to his Web site, “Tourist Season, published in 1986, was Hiaasen’s first solo novel. GQ magazine called it ‘one of the 10 best destination reads of all time,’ although it failed to frighten a single tourist away from Florida, as Hiaasen had hoped it might.” He’s written many books since and has continued to attract a loyal following of readers though he’s apparently still trying to keep the tourists away, as in Team Rodent, a rant a against the Disney empire.

Finally, I highly recommend Diane Roberts who is a professor of English at Florida State University in Tallahassee and one of my favorite essayists on National Public Radio.  To hear one of her recent commentaries go to http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130302999

I picked up a copy of  Roberts’ book Dream State in which she writes about Florida, “the land of orange groves, theme parks and mobile homes with a torrential outpouring of love and hate, affection and disgust. Weaving her own family history into that of the state—she’s related somehow or other to many of Florida’s pioneering families—she chronicles the greed, political corruption and deceit that turned the swamps of the Sunshine State into a haven for retirees, wealthy or otherwise.”  She has also written, The Myth of Aunt Jemima, and Faulkner and Southern Womanhood.