LIT­ER­A­TURE’S LIGHT SWITCH

Foreword Reviews - - Editor’s Note - BY MATT SUTHER­LAND

In an air­port re­cently, I spied a man read­ing Cold Moun­tain, a novel I loved at a time when I had all but given up on con­tem­po­rary fic­tion. It got me think­ing about why I was so taken with that ti­tle. What was go­ing on in my life? More­over, why do only a few books stick out af­ter all the great nov­els I’ve read over the past twenty years?

I’m think­ing of Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez’s Memories of My Melan­choly Whores, for ex­am­ple, and its unforgettable open­ing line: The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give my­self the gift of a night of wild love with an ado­les­cent vir­gin. Or, The Road, Cor­mac Mccarthy’s postapoc­a­lyp­tic trau­ma­tizer. Or, Iris Mur­doch’s The Sea, The Sea, about a Lon­doner’s de­scent into soli­tary mad­ness af­ter he re­tires to a beach house. These nov­els loom huge in my mem­ory, but why? Some­thing ex­is­ten­tial must have been go­ing on that made me ex­tra re­cep­tive. I’d give my right ring fin­ger to re­cap­ture it.

I know this isn’t an orig­i­nal line of think­ing, but sud­denly the no­tion of a pre-read­ing warm-up cer­e­mony ap­peals to me, along the lines of say­ing grace be­fore din­ner, or the sim­ple rou­tines that set­tle the mind prior to med­i­ta­tion. Some mind­ful act to whet the read­ing mus­cles. Dare I say, fore­play?

Like clos­ing the eyes and recit­ing a few fa­vorite lines of po­etry, or pic­tur­ing the mug of Vic­tor Hugo or Ernest Hem­ing­way. Maybe that’s what Nabokov was of­fer­ing read­ers when he com­posed the pervy sound-play mantra at the be­gin­ning of Lolita : Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue tak­ing a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

So it’s May, and we’re all headed to a beach soon for some sum­mer read­ing. Will a bathing suit and the smell of sun­screen be a fa­vor­able mood set­ter for the beach reads on your list?

You may have no­ticed that we’re com­ing around more of­ten—that’s your take­away from our de­ci­sion to go from quar­terly to bi­monthly, along with genre-spe­cific spe­cial-in­ter­est prod­ucts (SIPS) sand­wiched in be­tween. This year, our out­put will be twelve is­sues plump with re­views. The ex­tra work­load is land­ing on the shoul­ders of my mates Howard Lovy and Michelle Sch­in­gler, ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor and man­ag­ing ed­i­tor, re­spec­tively. All the fea­tures and re­views in Fore­word ben­e­fit from their ed­its and in­put. In ad­di­tion, Michelle has been a great help se­lect­ing many of the books that earn re­views. Not to for­get our ever-grow­ing team of tal­ented re­view­ers. I’m damned lucky to be a part of this op­er­a­tion.

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