Fiction

The Well-Readheads Go on Spring Break

In The Well-Readheads, copper-locked contributors Rebecca Joines Schinsky and Liberty Hardy discuss their love of literature and all things book-related.

RJS: I don’t know what it’s like up there in New Hampshire, but here in Virginia we’re in the middle of Very Dreary Days. You know what that makes me want? Warmer climes, endless sunshine, and a steady supply of frozen fruity beverages. Oh, and a cabana boy. I don’t need to explain why, right? Wanna come with, Lib? Wanna make our perfect vacation even better by reading about vacations gone awry?

LH: It’s perfect timing: I just read The Ruins by Scott Smith this past weekend, and if being flayed by killer vines isn’t a sucky vacation, I don’t know what is.

RJS: All I can think of right now is Little Shop of Horrors and “feed me, Seymour!” I’m not sure I know of any books that are specifically about vacation disasters, but there’s a plane ride to Hawaii in Adam Ross’ novel Mr. Peanut that is utterly gut-wrenching. In fact, the couple’s whole trip is something of a horror show. It’s been several years since I read the book, and I still can’t get on a plane without thinking about it. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

LH: I think Audrey II might be the only good plant villain out there. (Hivemind, please make suggestions in the comments. No, not dirty things – about good books with plant villains.) Moving on, another book with a vacation disaster: A little gem that I love, called Bear V. Shark by Chris Bachelder. It’s about a family who drive across the country to watch a bear and a shark wrestle in Las Vegas, after the youngest in the family wins tickets to the event in an essay contest. Very witty, biting (shark joke!) commentary on America.

RJS: Your mentioning sharks got me thinking of Florida, and that got me thinking about Swamplandia!, in which there’s a Hell-themed amusement park called The World of Darkness. (Welcome to today’s episode of Free Association with Rebecca!) And the place seems to be nothing but disaster upon disaster. Puking on a rollercoaster at Disney World? Bad. Puking in a dark, spinny, demon-filled park? The worst.

LH: Ooooooo, speaking of amusement parks have you ever read Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler? It’s a fantastic book of connected stories – and dark, dark, dark. There’s a horrible thing that happens at a Guppy the Wonder Fish theme park that (understandably) scars one of the main characters for life. Talk about a horrible vacation. I heart this book, so much.

RJS: I read that soooo long ago that I remember loving it, but that’s about all I remember. Note to self: time for a re-read! What about disastrous roadtrips? While not *exactly* about a vacation, Thad Nodine’s Touch and Go is about a delightfully catastrophic roadtrip that turns into straight-up catastrophe (like, Act of God catastrophe) when the characters get stuck in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. And then there’s Drive Like Hell by Dallas Hudgens, when isn’t even about a roadtrip, but a kid who spends a lot of time driving over his summer vacation and causes all kinds of trouble. I know I’m getting a little off topic, but hot damn I loved that book.

LH: One of the funniest books I’ve read is about a road trip: Handling Sin by Michael Malone. It’s about an insurance agent named Raleigh Hayes, whose dying father runs away from the hospital and tells Raleigh the only way he’ll return is if Raleigh completes several tasks his father needs him to do. Raleigh has to drive to New Orleans, and he meets all kinds of crazy characters along the way. It’s hilarious. And there’s a fantastic chase scene at Stone Mountain in Georgia. I don’t understand why more people haven’t heard of this one.

RJS: Okay, it’s not a vacation book so much as a seasonal thing, but I have to squee some love out for Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. About three generations of women that meet to spend every summer at the family beach house, it’s hilarious and so smart, and it goes right to the heart of the ways we love and love to hate our families.

LH: That’s still a vacation! I’m going to jump back to road trips and mention The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. First I’ll tell you about the book: Ray Midge goes on a road trip in search of his ex-wife, Norma, who has run off with her ex-husband and all Ray’s credit cards. Hilarious hijinks ensue. It’s a great book. Now lemme tell you about Charles Portis: He is amazing. He should be president of the Awesome Writers Club. You may have heard of a little thing he wrote called True Grit? He’s the author of five novels, the last having been released in 1991. I was hoping everyone reading this could clap their hands together? Maybe if he feels our love, he’ll write another one. It worked for Tinkerbell.

RJS: And we did TOTALLY wish a new Donna Tartt novel into existence. I mean, not a month after we pondered offering ourselves to her for the most literary of threeways, her fall release was announced. So yeah, clapping for Portis should work. That’s how this internet thing works, right? Are we still talking about books? I’m all twitterpated.

LH: Sounds like you need a vacation…Shall I recommend a book?