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Summer reading: Larry Doyle on the classics

July 16, 2010 |  7:15 am


Larry Doyle, author of the runaway coming-of-age hit "I Love You, Beth Cooper" is coming back to shelves with another tale of high school agony and hilarity, "Go, Mutants!" It feels a bit like a fifties b-movie mashup, with aliens walking (and sliming along) the high school halls. Doyle, a longtime writer for "The Simpsons," reads and signs "Go, Mutants!" tonight at Book Soup at 7pm.

Jacket Copy: Do you remember reading any books during a specific summer?

Larry Doyle: As I entered my last summer of graduate school at the University of Illinois, it occurred to me that I was completely uneducated. Or at least, not well read. I decided that I would read all of the classic books I'd managed to avoid through 19 years of school, and to make myself do it, I began writing a weekly column in the Daily Illini charting my progress (and encouraging others to do the same.) That summer, under the threat of self-humiliation, I read "Huckleberry Finn," "The Great Gatsby," "The Old Man and the Sea," "Ulysses," "Gravity's Rainbow" and the first two paragraphs of "Being and Nothingness."

JC: What year was it, and how old were you?

LD: It was 1982 and I was younger than I am now.

JC: Where were you?

LD: Mostly in the stacks of the U of I Library, where it was cool.

JC: Why were the books significant to you then?

LD: They represented the failed education system that had allowed me to graduate without reading them. Most annoying, these books were wildly entertaining, much moreso than "Organic Chemistry" or "Perspectives in Perspective" or whatever other professor-written book I was forced to buy.

JC: Have you re-read the book/s?

LD: I remain woefully underread, and so don't reread many book when I have literally thousands in my house I have not read (and I am using "literally" correctly here.) I've dipped back into each of these from time to time, though.

JC: Have you returned to that place?

LD: I returned to my alma mater many times, until every single thing I recognized there was gone.

JC: What are you reading this summer? Have you brought any books with you on your book tour?

LD: I'm reading "The Imperfectionists" by Tom Rachman. It reminds me of Waugh's "Scoop," which I did not read until I was 30.

For more summer reading, check the LA Times list of new summer reads: 60 books for 92 days.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo of Larry Doyle, courtesy of the author.

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