August-time, and the finding of bounty is easy

Look at your bookcase. Rummage in the free movies of Netflix. Eat tomatoes. Look up from your smart phone at the plenty around you.

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Heirloom tomatoes, a gift of August.

Look at your bookcase. Rummage in the free movies of Netflix. Eat tomatoes. Look up from your smart phone at the plenty around you.

You are in luck. You may have to curate a bit but you are in luck.

Sure, you are surrounded with grown men looking down and deep into their smart phones (the phone, once so unmanly!), and once-sensible grown women carrying 16-ounce frappuccinos out in front like an urn. Your teenage children have now skipped all seasons, your boys have even skipped girls, all to hunt shrouded figures in a video landscape — and the shrouded-figure makers, once documentary films' earnest laborers, now collect Xbox bonuses to keep their kids well clear of public school. Sure, you finally connected that the ground beef was the culprit for none of your kids being able to get to sleep, the beef so chemicaled to get to market fat and quickly that it delivered a caffeine boost from a burger. Sure, you have a broken baseball team and two daily papers with no reporters and a stadium that somehow thought Century Link was a good name (better than Portland, you say, better than Jeld-Wen, now that may set the pace for worst name ever built).

Anyway, you are in luck. There is still stuff, wonderful stuff, all around.

Try your bookcase, straight on. You have stuff in there you know you are done with, stuff not even yours anymore, and that should come out, like pruning geraniums: Get it out of there so the books you love , the ones you are keeping, have some room to breath. Some of the books still need a reading or at least a reading from a grown up. Like The Sun Also Rises — who thought you would understand that in the 11th grade? Or Catcher in the Rye, which is one book to a 20-year-old and another book to a 50-year-old. and neither one can see the other.

Or Evelyn Waugh. I might have been reborn countless times and never said a peep to Evelyn but there were five paperbacks in a stack, all by Waugh and it seemed only fair to at least try one before pulping the pile — and of course now I need more even than the five. If you needed to be read to, I would bring Evelyn.

A further bonus — once you have read Evelyn, and learned to pronounce his name, once you have shaken off the cobwebs of too much tv and reading your phone, once your world has shut up enough and your hip sense of time has let you stop and read sentences from the early 50s — once all this has been shaken, then you can read anything. You could read the Odyssey (read the Lattimore translation) and be in tears.

Or this new book with a title you cannot remember that someone left after a visit and you would have missed in a moment but you needed a book, the train was leaving. And it was brilliant. It is a funny thing about books: if their arrow is sharp, it seems to stay sharp, even as the fashion goes by.

We fished the DVD waters of Netflix all winter but only the Watch Instantly section, the most interesting of the waters, the strangest fish but perhaps the best and truest. These are the jeez-I-thought-you-would-do-better-than-this movies, or the what-a-lousy-title movies, or the how-would-I-describe-you movies. For whatever reason, they ended up here, free, free to watch right now (if you paid the monthly, of course).

But if you get right in there, deep into the foreign stuff, into the countries themselves, there are diamonds, true diamonds. Like the Italian movie, Facing Windows, that starts with the bickering young couple and the awful synopsis and by the end, you are glad there are movies at all. Or the Japanese Departures, with its insipid cover photo and foolish description; everyone apparently drove right past yet you may find it brilliant. Or the bums, you-did-nothing-for-the-investors movies, like Country Strong, as bad a title as Jeld-Wen, a pert walk from Shakespeare for Gwyneth Paltrow but pretty good. Or Monsters, a movie from 2010 with only five people in it, an R rating for no reason but to kill it, no monsters at all (hard to make a monster movie with none) — maybe you call it a sci fi indie, a true movie.

Two more suggestions. The Concert, a Russian film about a broken classical conductor, made in 2009, that won a Golden Globe award: It has terrible dubbing problems, terrible art, awkwardness and even awkward comedy, and surely half the viewers (it is free, right) get out in 10 minutes, but if you stay, it is grand. Or the brilliant The Cuckoo, directed by the Russian Alexander Rogozhkin, that is in three languages, Finnish, Russian, and Lapp, a difficulty of course, and a World War II drama/love story to boot, what a fine piece.

This odd purgatory of the misspent and overlooked, debris and casualty of our particular form of modernism and pasteurizing, it may well unfold as the actual and the more fertile land. Poking about for a recipe, I sat with a least-looked-at book, Cooking the Roman Way, David Downie and his wife Alison Harris, nice Italian names, a clumsy looking thing with an obliged jacket praise from Batali, a book from the Italian festa days of 10 years ago. It is a mess of a design but the shrimp/arugula/fresh tomatoes pasta, or the fava/lettuce hearts/pancetta linguine or the amatriciana sauce will help the heart of any cook.

It is August — the bountied finale, in this hemisphere, of deep Winters and hard Springs, a long Dog Days month to forget and go off work, change your skin, the blues and greens pushed aside by the yellow of sunflower, squash and corn, your own Pence peaches and nectarines. And the very first of the chanterelle mushrooms, picked from the coast, tiny brown buttons that in a month will be as big and yellow as a daffodil.

You are lucky — a month of Ferragosto, a celebration of your time and of your place.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Peter Miller

Peter Miller is owner of Peter Miller Books, a store in Seattle specializing in architecture and design books. You can reach him in care of