Are you ready for the sunshine?
Are you ready for the birds and bees,
the apple trees,
and a whole lot of fooling around
Are you ready for the summer?
Are you ready for the hot nights?
Are you ready for the fireflies,
the moonlit skies,
and a whole lot of fooling around
No more pencils, no more books
No more teachers dirty looks
No more math and history,
Summer time has set us free . . . “
“Are You Ready For The Summer?” from Meatballs
If I had to pick a theme song for the start of summer, this song would be it. Every year, as the kids pile out of school, I think of this song. Especially the “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks” line.
Actually, I think Meatballs is one of the all time best summertime movies. Fun, silliness, camp, and, of course, one of the best all time summer lines–“IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER.” Bill Murray was at his finest, and the rest of the cast is just along for the ride. Camp Northstar sounded perfect, and I wanted to be there.
I went to many camps: girl scout, church, 4-H, swim, cheerleading, leadership–and I’m sure I’m leaving some out. I had some good counselors, but none of them lived up to Bill Murray’s Tripper. He was the man that wouldn’t grow up, and looking at him as an adult, he would drive me nuts. But summer is not an adult time, it’s time that makes me think of the illusion of freedom, of running through the grass barefoot and riding your bike with no hands. Summer is Bill Murray’s Tripper.
If Camp Northstar taught me anything, it’s that summer’s motto should be “IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER” (of course, when you’re all grown up, it all matters). Summer means it’s time to let loose and let go. It means we should all take a few evenings to swim in the lake and chase fireflies. Summer is time to act like a kid, at least for a few evenings.
And now onto Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch.
Note: I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this book. Its release is slated for June 3rd, 2014.
Herman Koch, the author of “Summer House with Swimming Pool,” sets up his readers with the most unreliable of narrators in Dr Marc Schlosser, the very worst of the ‘good’ doctors. He goes above and beyond most doctors, giving them a whole twenty minutes (this is in the Netherlands, a country that is full on socialized medicine, so most doctors do 8 minutes, max, per patient), and, because of this, he patients are the rich and famous, mostly from the ‘artistic’ community.
Schlosser relishes in being an uninterest doctor. “Patients can’t tell the difference between time and attention.” he tells the reader. “I pretend to look, but I’m thinking about something else. About a roller coaster in an amusement park.” He cannot stand the human body, and is particularly squeamish about it and its movements, orifices, and fluids. This is pretty normal, but not for a doctor. At least I hope not.
The book starts off with Schlosser admitting that he is being investigated because of the death of a patient, a famous actor named Ralph Meier, who died from cancer. From there, Schlosser looks back, explaining to us how he got to this spot.
The reader is taken back to the moment when Schlosser is drawn into Meier’s world. Soon, the doctor, his beautiful wife, and his two teenage daughters are spending the summer in the Mediterranean with Meier, his wife (Schlosser is drawn to her, and this is a huge part as to why they have fallen in with the Meiers), their two sons, and Meier’s mother-in-law. They are joined by a Dutch movie director, and his mindless, young model girlfriend. It’s a summer of gluttony and frivolity, with Marc forgetting his disdain for his patients for just long enough to have his family changed and harmed. With this, I started to feel a little bit of pity for Schlosser, and maybe even began to understand why he did what he did.
Although we’re not sure what he did at all, because he is so unreliable.
Schlosser is compelling because he’s so untrustworthy. Like Koch’s earlier book, The Dinner, the story pulled me in. Koch’s story captured my attention; even though you hate the characters, you want to know what happened and why. And at the end, because the narrator left me uncertain, I’m still not sure what happened.
And that’s half the fun.