Balance of power

Marsalis brings Democracy! Suite to NH

By Hannah Turtle

hturtle@hippopress.com

Legendary jazz musician Wynton Marsalis is slated to play Jimmy’s Jazz and Blues Club in Portsmouth on Saturday, July 9.

Marsalis’ newest work is called The Democracy! Suite, one he wrote during lockdown. The record is based on his idea that jazz music is a metaphor for democracy. In a recent interview, he had plenty to say about the album.

“If we just think about the things that are required for democracy. The one thing is: no king. The basis is, you have a constitution, you distribute power. Our music has that type of distribution of power. I might be the leader of the band, but when we start playing, the president of the band is the drummer, not the trumpet player. The drummer is playing all the time, making decisions. There’s an actionable form to create a plurality, it’s designed to prevent kleptocracy. Now, we aren’t really doing good with that right now, but it’s checks and balances,” said Marsalis.

“You’ve got the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. In jazz, if you look at the rhythm section, each instrument represents that. The judicial branch is represented by the bass, that’s the final word on harmony, it’s at the bottom. The executive branch is the drums, that’s the quick power. And, the legislative branch is the piano — it has all the keys.”

Though ideas of democracy and the constitution have been a hot-button issue lately, Marsalis is not worried about our ability to persevere.

“The fundamentals of democratic living are not based on the time you live in, it’s based on the principles themselves. For example, there was a time in America when we had slaves, but it was antithetical to principles of freedom, so we fought it,” he said

“Jazz has three fundamental components. One is improvisation. That’s the personal freedom, that’s the part that everyone agrees on. The second component is swing, and we don’t agree on that. Swing has the African component, and America struggles to deal with its own African-ness. Swing is also the collective part, it’s the ‘we.’ We just don’t agree on the ‘we.’ Our dream is what we can individually do: I can get a house, I can make some money. We don’t think of the community, the collective thought. We want to have the bass vamp the same four notes, have the drums replaced by something electronic that plays a loop, all that is the decision that I don’t want to deal with the ‘we,’” Marsalis said.

He brings it back to the beginning.

“It’s the desire to change the plurality to something that an individual can dominate. But we have an actionable form too, it’s a chorus that goes around and around in a cycle. The energy pulls from the bottom up, it doesn’t go top down. The top is just where the instructions come from. For example, elections are run by states, not by the federal government. Polls are local. A poll worker is just a person in the community. That’s how our music is. We get people from communities, they don’t have to be from a certain kind of family, and we just play.”

That final fundamental jazz component is the blues. It’s something Marsalis spoke of reverently. “The blues has an optimism that’s not naive. Stuff doesn’t go your way a lot of the time, but you can’t give up. Use your will, get into the struggle, and create the change you want to see.”

On that note, I had just one more request for Marsalis, to describe his music to readers who might not be familiar. At that, he was back to a simple answer: “I really don’t know. There’s a lot of it. I’ve done like a hundred and fifteen records. They’re all different. The one thing about the music is that it’s collective. Every time, I play with great musicians, and we play together.”

The Wynton Marsalis Septet
Where: Jimmy’s Jazz and Blues Club, 135 Congress St., Portsmouth; 888-603-JAZZ
When: Saturday, July 9, 7:30 and 9 p.m.
Tickets: $125 to $195 at jimmysoncongress.com

Featured photo: Wynton Marsalis. Photo by Lawrence Sumulong.

Laughter as medicine

Jimmy Tingle’s Humor for Humanity

Though he’s a political comedian, and maybe the only standup who attended Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Jimmy Tingle doesn’t lean left or right in his joke-telling. Yes, he ran for Lieutenant Governor in Massachusetts’s 2018 Democratic primary, but on stage, he’s there for everyone.

Tingle believes, to paraphrase the old Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, that’s what the world needs now.

“People don’t need to be beat up rhetorically; people want to laugh,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I don’t shy away from what’s going on, but I don’t want to be finger-pointing at people and turning on them, making people feel like there’s no hope, that we’re not making progress. Because we are.”

Tingle calls his new campaign Humor For Humanity, and aims to draw laughs and do good. “It’s basically using humor to illuminate the human condition and where we are in the country right now,” he said, “but it’s also a social enterprise that raises spirits, funds and awareness for nonprofits, charities and social causes. Our mission is your mission … humor in helping, humor in healing, humor in hope — ha, ha, ha!”

Proceeds from a pair of upcoming shows at The Music Hall in Portsmouth will benefit the Friends of Moldova Refugee Relief charity. Tingle’s Harvard classmate Maia Sandu is president of Moldova, which borders Ukraine and has been severely impacted by the Russian invasion of that country. “I’ve done some low-level fundraising for [the cause] in the past couple of months,” Tingle said, “but this will be a more direct deposit to the organization.”

Tingle was inspired to become a comic by Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Lenny Bruce in the 1974 Bob Fosse-directed biopic. “That just illustrated what comedy could be besides what I grew up on — The Three Stooges, Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason,” he said. “When I watched that movie back in college, while we were discussing … all the challenges that were front and center in the country at that time, coming out of the Vietnam War, I saw what comedy could be as well. It just resonated with me.”

His show is autobiographical, beginning with Tingle’s days as a street performer in Cambridge, doing standup in the city’s burgeoning ’80s comedy scene. He’ll talk about working at the Ding Ho club, where he was a fixture, then moving to one-man shows, running through a ‘greatest hits’ of some of those, then touch on his time as a 60 Minutes correspondent.

The evening concludes in the present, where Tingle remains an optimist. “Things that were revealed during the pandemic, like racial equity [and] treating these subjects with humor, but also, I would like to think, insight and, again, progressive commentary.” That last word reflects a continuum rather than an ideology, Tingle stressed. “I like to think we’re making progress; we gotta keep making progress.”

Along with live work, Tingle has a podcast that’s hosted comics like Colin Quinn, Marc Maron and Paula Poundstone, as well as activists like John Rosenthal, the founder of Stop Handgun Violence.

“It’s not just about entertainment, but that’s … first and foremost on my agenda,” he continued. “I want to be funny as well as as positive and uplifting as I can be, and also hopeful regarding the situation that’s going on. The doom and gloom is overwhelming, and the division in the country is overwhelming. I want to be less partisan and more unifying about the human condition, and what we all have in common.”

After two years of uncertainty, Tingle feels it’s the least he can do.

“I just want people to come out and have a good time and leave the theater hopefully feeling uplifted and more positive,” he said. “More hopeful than they were when they went in. I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Thank you so much for doing this show. It’s exactly what I needed, because I haven’t been out of the house in two years. It was so good to be back out and laughing with people.’”

Jimmy Tingle
When: Saturday, July 16, at 6 and 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall Lounge, 131 Congress St., Portsmouth
Tickets: $30 at themusichall.org

Featured photo: Jimmy Tingle. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/07/07

Local music news & events

Cleaning up: When he’s not headlining and opening for the likes of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cash works as a school janitor in Worcester, Mass. His salt-of-the-earth act draws from that experience, along with being a dad to a teenage daughter and dealing with life issues. Cash recently won Mohegan Sun’s Last Comix Standing competition. Friday, July 8, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $25 at palacetheatre.org (18+).

Dance fever: Return to the days of disco and nonstop beat mixing at Retro Rewind Dance Night. Hosted by Boston DJ Susan Esthera, the event features hits from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, along with visual stimuli to sustain the throwback vibe. Saturday, July 9, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $10 in advance at ccanh.com ($15 at the door).

Returning: There was a time when singer-songwriter Dusty Gray played nonstop and toured the country with his band. Eventually he moved to Nashville but he still returns home for an occasional run of shows, and trains dogs to pay the bills. Sunday, July 10, 10 a.m., White Park, 1 White St., Concord, facebook.com/ConcordParknRecDept.

Hump day: A native of Northborough, Mass., Mychael David can be seen opening for the likes of Sawyer Brown and showcasing his own original music. David’s newest album is Heroes & Honky Tonks, and he recently released a single, “Smoke & Ash.” Wednesday, July 13, 7 p.m., Emerson Park, 6 Mont Vernon St., Milford. See mychaeldavidmusic.com

Wunderkind: Much of the music world first took notice of Tal Wilkenfeld playing with Jeff Beck at his Ronnie Scott’s residency where the 20-year-old bassist outshone the guitar legend by soloing on his song “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.” Now also singing and playing guitar, she’s been a rising force ever since. Thursday, July 7, 7:30 p.m. at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, 135 Congress St., Portsmouth, tickets $10 to $40 at jimmysoncongress.com.

At the Sofaplex 22/07/07

Fire Island(R)

Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang.

Five friends head to Fire Island for what might be their last weeklong summer visit with Erin (Margaret Cho) at her beach house with a pool. Erin has been bad with money and may have to sell this spot that has been this found-family’s retreat, so she tells the kind Howie (Yang), opinionated and spirited Noah (Booster), bookish Max (Torian Miller) and flirty and party-ready Keegan (Tomas Matos) and Luke (Matt Rogers). And if, in those descriptions, you’re getting hints of Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia Bennet, that is by design in this absolutely charming riff on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Howie doesn’t have much expectation for finding love — and he wants the full rom-com love, not just Noah’s emotions-free style of one-night stands — on Fire Island but he and the sweet and handsome Charlie (James Scully) become instantly smitten with each other. Charlie’s friends, on the other hand, are kind of a nightmare — snobby, vain and, in the case of Charlie’s bestie Will (Conrad Ricamora), standoffish and seemingly elitist. That’s right, Will’s the Mr. Darcy and he’s Mr. Darcy-ing with the best of them, giving Mr. Darcy gold standard Colin Firth a run for his money in being both prideful and a stone-cold hottie.

As is required, there is also a Wickham-type in the form of Dex (Zane Phillips), a man who turns Noah’s head and about whom Will has some kind of shady information.

Great performances across the board, with Ricamora and Booster bringing the electricity and Yang just a national treasure. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lit major in possession of an Austen-appreciation is in want of a fun variation of a beloved tale. A Available on Hulu.

Cha Cha Real Smooth (R)

Cooper Raiff, Dakota Johnson.

Andrew (Raiff, who also wrote and directed this movie) has graduated from college and is ready for his next step — though what that is he isn’t yet sure. His not-quite-girlfriend has gone to Barcelona for a year and Andrew is back living with his mother (Leslie Mann), sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his 13-year-old brother David’s (Evan Assante) bedroom and exchanging passive-aggressive insults with his mom’s husband, Greg (Brad Garrett). He finds himself tasked with taking David to a friend’s bar mitzvah, one of many scheduled for the coming months. At the party, he finds himself unofficially taking over the role of party starter, getting kids out on the dance floor and having fun. He impresses the many moms in attendance, especially Domino (Johnson). They have an easy rapport, as do Andrew and Lola (Vanessa Burghardt), Domino’s daughter, who is on the autism spectrum and who finds party situations difficult.

After this first event, Andrew becomes the guy to hire for future bar and bat mitzvahs and he spends even more time with Domino and Lola, finding himself drawn into their lives.

This movie gave me serious Metropolitan and Kicking and Screaming (the Noah Baumbach movie) vibes, with its “season” of parties and its post-college uncertainty. But the tone of the movie feels fresh and modern too, with its odd (but appealing) mix of sadness and optimism and the emotional vulnerability and maturity of Andrew. These are just enjoyable people to spend time with, even when they’re struggling with their emotions or how to move forward in their life. B+ Available on Apple TV+.

Hustle

Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah.

Plus a bunch of real-life basketball players, including Juancho Hernangomez, who plays Bo Cruz.

Cruz is a super-tall guy in bad shoes, playing basketball on street courts in Spain to hustle money. Stanley Sugarman (Sandler) is sent by the Philadelphia 76ers, the basketball team for which he is a scout, to Spain to check out a different player when Stanley happens on Bo. He tracks him down and convinces him to begin the grueling process of preparing to try out for the 76ers.

What Bo doesn’t know is that Stanley’s boss, Vince (Ben Foster), the son of the man Stanley had long worked for and who recently died, leaving the team in Vince’s control, has already told Stanley he’s not interested in Bo. Vince wants Stanley to get out there and find another diamond in the rough — or, really, Vince seems to want to punish Stanley for his good relationship with his late father. But Stanley believes in Bo and is determined to get him into the NBA. Also, he’s hoping that being the man to discover such a superstar will get Stanley where he really wants to go: a coach spot.

This movie has all of the energy that Sandler brought to his performance in Uncut Gems without that anxiety-attack feeling that movie had. You get the sense that Sandler knows who Stanley is all the way down to the core of this person — his hopes, his dreams, his relationship with his wife (played by Queen Latifah) and daughter (Jordan Hull), his love of basketball. It’s a strong performance in a movie that gives you, to some extent, a classic sports story but with so much genuine, geeky love of the game that it feels loose and exciting. A Available on Netflix.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (R)

Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack.

Nancy Stokes (Thompson), not her real name, and Leo Grande (McCormack), also not exactly his name, meet when Nancy hires him to provide, er, his company for a few hours. A widow who only ever had sex with her husband, Nancy is determined not just to have sex with someone else but to recapture a bit of youthful romance by sleeping with a younger man. Hence Leo, whom she picked for his good looks but whose handsomeness she finds kind of intimidating in person. Actually, she seems to find everything about their situation intimidating — terrifying even — now that she’s actually in this hotel room with him. And that is really the movie, Thompson’s Nancy working through a lifetime of Stuff while also determined, rather unromantically so, to get the job done. Her defensiveness veers into insult on occasion and she ignores Leo’s attempts to wave her away from his boundaries about talking about his “real” life. She also makes the most amazing expressions, say, looking at herself in the mirror or trying to relax into something like a “mood,” all twitchy discomfort and weighed down by decades of negativity and shame.

I realize that might not sound like the best of times, but this movie — which is mostly just those two actors in a hotel room — is a real pleasure. Nancy reminds me a bit of Michelle Yeoh’s character in Everything Everywhere All At Once in that she is a full and complete grown person and also at times a bit of a mess. It’s nice to see older women, well, at all in movies but it’s nice when they are drawn as people with all this life happening in the present, not just as people The Notebook-ing back on some prior time. Thompson makes Nancy into someone we get to know and by the end of the movie we’re able to see her life from her perspective. B+ Available on Hulu.

Father of the Bride (PG-13)

Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan.

Billy (Garcia) and Ingrid (Estefan) Herrara are moments away from announcing to their family that they’re getting a divorce — or, rather, Ingrid is moments away from telling her grown daughters Sofia (Adria Arjona) and Cora (Isabela Merced) and assorted abuelas and tios and other members of their large Cuban-American Miami family that she’s had it with Billy. But then Sofia announces that she’s engaged and that she wants to marry fiance Adan (Diego Boneta) before they move to Mexico, where he’s from, to work as a lawyer for an immigration-related nonprofit. Billy has several problems with all of this, including who the heck is Adan, and “non” profit? But Sofia is determined that they can pull off the intimate wedding she wants in the two months before she starts her new job. Billy, full of father-of-the-bride traditions, wants something grander; even grander still are the plans of Hernan (Pedro Damián), Adan’s father and, as it turns out, one of the richest men in Mexico.

This HBOMax version of Father of the Bride is pleasant — full of pleasant characters and the occasional light chuckle. Garcia and Estefan might be parents of the bride but they are the true leads and they’re entertaining enough together. If you can’t go to Miami but want a quick hit of light Miami-ness, you could do worse. B- Available on HBO Max.

Jerry and Marge Go Large (PG-13)

Bryan Cranston, Annette Bening.

Somewhere between the coupon-scam movie Queenpins and the townfolk-buy-a-racehorse movie Dream Horse exists this tale of a retiree who finds a mathematical path for a sure-thing lottery win. Jerry (Cranston) reluctantly retires from his job and finds himself just sort of kicking around his small Michigan town, not quite sure what to do with himself or how to connect with his wife, Marge (Bening). While drinking coffee at the local general store, he stumbles on the rules to a lottery game called Windfall. He figures out that by purchasing a large number of tickets when the jackpot hits a certain level and the rules about how many matching numbers get payouts become more player-friendly he can nearly ensure that he will win back more than the cost of the tickets.

He runs a few experiments and manages to make $15,000, but then Marge finds out. He thinks she’ll be upset but she’s sort of delighted. Not only are they making money, but it’s something for them to do together. When Michigan ends the Windfall game, they discover that the closest state with the game and the same rules is Massachusetts and Jerry realizes that they can make bigger hauls if they bet with more money. Soon he’s created a betting corporation with friends and family from his town chipping in and reaping the rewards.

Of course, a loophole like this isn’t something only Jerry can find. Harvard student/bro-villain Tyler (Uly Schlesinger) finds the mathematical quirk while working on a project about the lottery. He gathers together some students to run a similar scheme, but when he finds out about Jerry and his group, Tyler decides this small-stakes lotto isn’t big enough for the both of them.

You could also throw your old-men-bank-robbery movie Going in Style into the tank where this movie is swimming. Like all those movies, this isn’t fresh or surprising storytelling but it is, basically, affable. Just because most of the characters have a bit of a cartoon quality to them in terms of their lack of dimension doesn’t mean they aren’t still mildly enjoyable to watch on screen. Jerry and Marge Go Large is light but acceptable. B- Available on Paramount+.

Minions: The Rise of Gru (PG)

Eleven- (and three-quarters!) year-old Gru tries to join the league of villains he idolizes in Minions: The Rise of Gru, maybe the silliest of these movies and I mean this as a compliment.

When young Gru (voice of Steve Carell) finds out that the adult villains the Vicious Six are now only five and have an opening, he is excited to go meet the gang, now led by Belle Bottom (voice of Taraji P. Henson, doing some fun villain vocal work). But they quickly say “next” when they realize he’s just a kid. To prove himself to them, Gru steals the mystical ancient amulet from them that they have recently stolen.

Or rather, Wild Knuckles (voice of Alan Arkin), formerly the sixth member, stole the amulet right before the other five stole it from him and kicked him out of the group. So as Gru runs off with his thrice-stolen prize, not only are Belle and her gang after him but so is Wild Knuckles. Gru makes a getaway with the help of his Minion henchmen (voiced by Pierre Coffin) but then one of them falls in love with a pet rock (it’s the 1970s) and loses the amulet. In a fit of anger Gru fires them but then he is quickly kidnapped. While a group of Minions heads off in search of Gru, another one tracks down the amulet. And of course Belle is still looking for Gru, breaking up Gru’s mother’s (voice of Julie Andrews) Tupperware party, where the Minions have been demonstrating the product’s fart-noise-producing features.

Wild Knuckles, trying to prove he’s still got it, and Gru, trying to prove he’s got it already, eventually make a crabbily sweet mentor-mentee team while elsewhere some Minions take a little time out to learn kung-fu from Master Chow (voice of Michelle Yeoh). We don’t linger on any one scene or any one idea very long and even though there are emotional beats to this movie, they take a back seat to, well, backseats (there are, of course, occasional Minion butts, which got big laughs from my elementary school-age kids). And fart jokes and silly Minion talk and Minions doing puppy-dog eyes and general Three Stooges-ness. If you’re still fighting the good fight against sassiness and cartoon-on-cartoon head-bonks, I can see how this movie might be a bit much (there are also some big scary animals at the end, including a pretty great Taraji P. Henson dragon). But if you’ve given in or your kids are old enough, this movie has a bouncy silliness that has good energy without feeling like a total sugar rush and keeps the movie snapping along through its not quite 90 minutes.

“It’s awesome; you gotta go,” was the review one of my kids gave. And if you like Looney Tunes-style goofiness — or just watching the enjoyment your kids get from Looney Tunes-style goofiness — I agree. B+

Rated PG for some action/violence and rude humor, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson and Jonathan del Val, Minions: The Rise of Gru is an hour and 27 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: Minions: The Rise of Gru

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting, by Claire Pooley

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting, by Claire Pooley (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 338 pages)

The unwritten rules for commuting are pretty much the same as the unwritten rules for riding an elevator: Avoid eye contact if possible. Keep in your space. If you must say something, comment on the weather.

But what if you ride a train five or more days a week and often see the same faces? And what if, one day, one of them nearly chokes to death on a grape? Do you go back to impersonal nonchalance, or question the etiquette rules that would even make you consider that?

The answer is right there on the cover of Clare Pooley’s Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting, a fun summer read that advises “Sometimes you have to break the rules.” Set in London, the novel is vaguely reminiscent of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, only Iona Iverson is in the twilight of her career, happily partnered, and gay.

Also, Iona is but one part of this story; don’t be fooled by her top billing. In fact, it’s the clever interweaving of different perspectives and storylines that makes this novel sing.

There are four central characters: Iona, the “Dear Abby”-like magazine advice columnist who has been deemed a dinosaur by her younger colleagues, who are trying to drive her out of the job she loves and has been doing for 30 years; Piers, an unhappy investment banker who was eating a salad on the train when he choked on the grape; Sanjay, a shy nurse with a crippling anxiety disorder who nonetheless saved Piers’ life; and Emmie, a voracious reader who works an unfulfilling job in marketing and is oblivious to Sanjay’s infatuation with her.

The four lives intersect meaningfully in the moment of Piers’ medical emergency, and then, once the problem is resolved and lives resumed, they want to retreat to their respective silos of silence. Except for Iona, whose stubborn insistence on righting the world’s wrongs — not only in her column but in the lives of the people around her — compels her to keep the conversations going.

If this sounds kind of saccharine and frothy, well, on one level, it is. But we are solidly into the season where you don’t have to read anything that could have been assigned by a teacher or boss. And Pooley is a genuinely funny writer, rolling off bits and one-liners at a pace that makes this novel as much a comedy as a beach read.

If the idea of commuting seems a bit antique in these days of working at home, it’s not in Pooley’s hands. She hits the issue head on, having Iona’s boss urging her to work from home. She declines — believing “It was important to keep at least one finger plugged into the zeitgeist” — even though she doesn’t like the trend of hot desking, which she rightly interprets as sharing, something she didn’t like to do even as a child.

So Iona keeps going to work daily, accompanied by her French bulldog named Lulu, whom she balances on her lap while drinking tea on the train. Some of the other passengers avoid her and think of her as “Crazy Dog Lady.” There are often empty seats around her.

But it’s Iona who decides to help the painfully shy Sanjay interact with the young woman he’s crushing on, and Iona who leaps to the defense of a distraught teenager who gets sick on Piers’ laptop one day. Then after one especially nasty exchange between Iona and Piers (in which an observer likens them to T. rex and Indominus rex going after each other in Jurassic Park), the two break through to something resembling humanity, after Piers admits, in an unguarded moment, that he desperately hates his job.

It is but one concealed bit of trouble among a host of troubles concealed by passengers on the train, and as the story unfolds, Iona becomes as much of a helper and adviser in real life as she is in her column; more so, actually. But as the commuters slowly get to know one another — first in abbreviated interactions on the train and then in other ways — they all begin to help each other in surprising ways, often inadvertently.

It would be “the feel-good movie of the year” if it were a movie, let’s just say.

While Rules for Commuting isn’t all sweetness and light — there are side plots involving a young mother undergoing cancer treatment and a young woman being cruelly bullied — there’s never a sense that we will get our hearts ripped out at the end. It offers escapism without the darkness that so much escapist fare contains.

Is it real life? Of course not. Will it help make yours more tolerable for a couple of hours? Absolutely, which is really all we need from a light summer book. B

Book Notes

You can read a book a week and still find yourself perpetually surprised that someone is a “New York Times bestselling author” you’ve never heard of. Take, for instance, the Virginia young-adult novelist Jenny Han, who is currently all the rage for her trio of summer-themed books that have just come out as an Amazon streaming series.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is the first title in the trilogy, and also the title of the series. It’s described by NPR pretty simply: It’s the story of “one teenage girl whose summer goes the way it always does except for one thing. The two boys she’s known her whole life are looking at her differently, and suddenly she has a big choice to make.”

OK, so it’s probably not William Faulker, whose story “The Long Summer” and two others were the basis for the film The Long Hot Summer.

But Han’s novel and two subsequent titles — It’s Not Summer Without You and We’ll Always Have Summer — will be released in a hardcover boxed set (Simon & Schuster, 880 pages in total) in two weeks. It’s been an extraordinary run for the books, seeing as the first book was released in 2009. Props to any author who can sell a book with a protagonist named Belly and still be selling well more than a decade later.

The other literal summer reads are, for the most part, the beach reads and chick lit we expect, such as Rebecca Serle’s romance One Italian Summer (Atria, 272 pages) and May Cobb’s mystery My Summer Darlings (Berkley, 368 pages).

But there’s one notable exception: The Summer Friend (Knopf, 240 pages) by Charles McGrath, a former editor at The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Set in New England, The Summer Friend is a memoir about McGrath’s friendship with a man named Chip Gillespie, who grew up in New Hampshire (his father taught classics at Phillips Exeter Academy). “Whenever I try to tell my own summertime story, I find myself telling a story that is partly his,” McGrath writes. The pair sailed, golfed and lobstered together for years, their summers entwined, until Chip’s life was struck short by cancer.

An intelligent and emotive departure from the typical “summer” books, it’s worth your attention, particularly if your childhood memories, like McGrath’s, are set near New England water.


Book Events

Author events

JOYCE MAYNARD presents Count the Ways at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Tuesday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m.

ADAM J. MEAD presents The Complete Financial History of Berkshire Hathaway at the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester, bookerymht.com, 836-6600) on Wednesday, July 13, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Free event; register at www.bookerymht.com/our-events.

KARI ALLEN presents and signs copies of her picture book The Boy Who Loved Maps at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Wednesday, July 13, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

SARAH MCCRAW CROW presents The Wrong Kind of Woman at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Tuesday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m.

PAULA MUNIER and SARAH STEWART TAYLOR present their respective mystery novels The Wedding Plot and The Drowning Sea at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Thursday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m.

LINDA REILLY presents her cozy mystery No Parm No Foul at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Tuesday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m.

DIANE HALLENBECK presents Rejecting Fear: Learning to Be Led By Love at the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester, bookerymht.com, 836-6600) on Thursday, July 28, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Free event; register at www.bookerymht.com/our-events.

MARY ELLEN HUMPHREY presents My Mountain Friend: Wandering and Pondering Mt. Major at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Thursday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m.

KATHLEEN BAILEY and SHEILA BAILEY present their book New Hampshire War Monuments: The Stories Behind the Stones at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Thursday, Aug. 11, at 6:30 p.m.

CASEY SHERMAN presents Helltown at the Bookery (844 Elm St., Manchester, bookerymht.com, 836-6600) on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 1:30 p.m. Free event; register at www.bookerymht.com/our-events.

VIRGINA CHAMLEE presents Big Thrift Energy: The Art and Thrill of Finding Vintage Treasures at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, gibsonsbookstore.com) on Monday, Aug. 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Poetry

DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit poetrysocietynh.wordpress.com.

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email elizabethw@goffstownlibrary.com or visit goffstownlibrary.com

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email information@nashualibrary.org or visit nashualibrary.org.

Language

FRENCH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE CLASSES

Offered remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week session with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $225. Visit facnh.com/education or call 623-1093.

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