Summer reading: Rosecrans Baldwin on Graham Greene
Rosecrans Baldwin, a founder of the smart and witty website The Morning News, published his debut novel this week. And while it's smart, "You Lost Me There" has none of the charming sarcasm of the website; instead, it takes a mature look at relationships and memory. The Daily Beast writes that it is a "masterful study of love, loss, and self-discovery." Baldwin told Jacket Copy about one of his favorite summer reads, "The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene, via e-mail.
Jacket Copy: Do you remember reading a specific book during summertime?
Rosecrans Baldwin: First one that comes to mind is "The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene. I love that book. In my imaginary Graham Greene library, it warrants its own platinum shelf, under a bomb-proof shield, along with "The Comedians," "The Ministry of Fear" and "The Human Factor." I've read "End of the Affair" at least eight or nine times. It's an extremely good novel. This reading, though, was a very new experience. I had to put it down.
JC: What year was it, and how old were you?
RB: This was in 2008. I was 31.
JC: Where were you?
RB: My wife and I rented a beach house in Topsail, N.C., with some friends and my wife's family. I'd go out surfing in the middle of the afternoon heat, come back inside, fall on one of the deck chairs, grab "End of the Affair" and be immediately, wonderfully depressed.
JC: Why was the book significant to you then?
RB: I was halfway through and I couldn't finish it. This never happened before with that book. Sometimes, I'll throw a book across the room because it bugs me, but the only other book that ever made me feel so rotten was "Revolutionary Road," which I made myself finish. I'm not sure why "End of the Affair" struck me this time. Maybe I'm old enough to better plumb its depths.
JC: Have you gone back to read it again?
RB: I haven't read it since that week, but I will. The copy that's currently on the shelf must be the 10th I've bought. I keep buying them, giving them away, buying them again. I think I've owned a version of nearly every reprint.
JC: Have you returned to that place?
RB: We went back late last summer. No Greene this time. I think I was reading "Lush Life," by Richard Price, and a bunch of John Le Carré novels. I'm a completist with Le Carré. I fear the day when I've read everything he's written.
JC: Do you have plans to read any specific book or books before the summer is over?
RB: Right now I'm reading "The Fire Engine That Disappeared," by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. After that, I've got Caryl Férey's "Zulu" on the shelf, then I should be ready to hunker down and barnstorm the new Franzen. I can't wait.
The summer of 2010 is nearing its end, but Labor Day weekend presents an opportunity for some last-gasp summer reading. Not sure where to begin? Check out the Los Angeles Times' list of this season's summer reads: 60 books for 92 days.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Rosecrans Baldwin. Credit: Susie Post Rust