For inspired creative writing about summertime, I turn to a beautiful coffee table book called Summer (1990, Addison Wesley).
Filled with short stories, poems, color plates of summer-themed paintings and photographs, this oversized book covers everything from baseball to boating, from dressing in white to decorating with botanical prints. There's really fine writing, too--among the more famous authors, there's John Updyke, Charles Simic, Francine Du Plessix Gray, Wallace Stevens, and even Alfred Kazin writing on Cape Cod's intelligentsia of the Fifties and Sixties. And this right alongside a marvelous color plate of Edward Hopper's Cape Cod Evening (oil on canvas, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.)
There are 72 works of art represented and 37 writers including Phyllis McGinley, poet, essayist and children's book author who won the Pultizer Prize for her collection, Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades.
Then there's Meg Wolitzer, Marjorie Welish, Louise Erdrich, Alice Adams, Laurie Colwin, so it's nice to see a solid representation of women writers, too.
So why am I raving about a book that's more than 20 years old? Well, it inspires . . .
There are accounts of summer jobs and summer vacations, summer gardens, memorable carnivals, terrifying thunderstorms, summer love, summer camp, and -- swimming pools. I love this by Beverly Lowry:
My mother could not swim. The rest of us were like otters; we couldn't get enough. Our skin turned to prunes in late May and did not smooth out until fall. We would go in the morning, my brother and I, stay until noon, come back at two, swim all afternoon. Swimming-pool chemicals turned my hair green and bleached out my bathing suits." --from "The Deep"
I like it because I remember my own childhood summers, way back in the Sixties, walking every day to the municipal swimming pool with my sister and brother. We would stand in line and wait for the doors to open, our swimming suits rolled up in a towel and tucked under our arms. We'd pay our fifteen-cent admission and stay (literally) in the water until 5 or so. Then we'd head home with the heat coming in waves off the asphalt of the streets and the concrete sidewalks. There was a neighborhood grocery store we passed on the way home. It had a screen door that snapped shut behind you when you walked in and the cool, cement floor felt good on bare feet. We would buy popsicles and penny candy to eat on the way home. I remember being blissfully exhausted at the end of each day, sitting with my family on the porch, watching the fireflies, fighting bedtime, but looking ahead to the next day when we could do it all over again.