‘We’re Having a Heat Wave’

Hot enough for you? It’s been 95 degrees for the past four or five days here in Washington--and the Dirda Air Conditioning is broken, with no possibility of a new system for at least a week, perhaps more. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the local library.

Most of the time, it’s been a great place to work, as well it should be. But libraries have certainly grown noisier in recent years. People think nothing of talking on cell phones, making highly audible clicks with their phones as they text messages and, all in all, carrying on quite loudly at times. I miss the funereal hush of the old days, when librarians were figures who instilled the fear of the Lord in young people and knuckles would be rapped if you made any sound above a sigh.

It is certainly hot. At home I run fans, take cold baths, eat chilled fruit, but still swelter and feel vaguely headachey all the time. I remind myself, a bit, of the luckless protagonist of W.F. Harvey’s classic horror story, “August Heat.” “It’s enough to send a man mad.” I wonder, too, if those “hot Santa Anas” that Raymond Chandler talks about in, I think, “Red Wind” were even hotter. They were supposed to make wives feel the edge of kitchen knives as they studied their husbands’ necks. Then there are all those luckless westerners in Paul Bowles’s stories who wander unwisely into the blazing desert and end up as mutilated clowns to wandering tribes. Over at the AFI they always show “Lawrence of Arabia” during the summer. It’s filled with all those close-ups of parched lips and weather-beaten faces.

Down in Florida, when I taught in Orlando, it never seemed this hot. Maybe the regular afternoon thundershower helped cool things down. Here, Gerard Manley Hopkins would feel at home, as he plaintively cries out, “Send my roots rain!” Maybe it’s global warming that’s causing this. Will greater Washington turn into some sandy wasteland, like the world of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”? Some would say it has already.

Anyway, as Cole Porter once wrote, “It’s Too Darn Hot.”

Reading Roomers, how do you deal with the heat? Do you lie in the backyard in a hammock under the shade trees, reading a thriller? Do you head to the beach with a romance novel as you surreptitiously check out the hunky lifeguards? Does hot weather lead you to hot books, however you define hot? Take a sip of that gin and tonic and please share your thoughts.

P.S. The “Reply” section for DRR was inadvertently shut down last week. It is now restored for anyone who wants to add a comment to the last couple of threads.

- Michael Dirda

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