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‘Breaking Away’ for Summer: Text Messages and Reading Lists

The Lowe Down

Freddy Lowe Published: 29 July 2023

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An image of a man using a smartphone

I recently received the following text message from a ‘friend’ who works with me at another publication:

“Hey, so I was double checking outbound emails…and saw that in the body text of the email to X that you were “the” section editor when we have two, what’s up with that?”

It’s one of those messages that seem reasonable at first glance but contain an undercurrent of passive criticism. Your brain goes into overdrive wondering if you’re overanalysing when detecting backhanded aggression. There’s the tiniest implication that you’ve done something wrong, but not stated so explicitly as to confirm anything. It purposefully provokes unease.

As it happened, I thought my fellow section editor had stepped down. She hadn’t. The relative triviality of this misunderstanding did not, however, stop this unpleasant message from pinging on my mobile at 10:03 pm while I was lounging with my parents playing number games, no less.

I mention this for two reasons: one, to point out that I have never received such a message from Wymondham Magazine staff (yet another reason why they are the best local publication, of course), and two, to express solidarity with all the Wymondham folk who receive messages like this far more frequently (and worse). Schoolmate ‘group chats’ are hotbeds of messages that provoke insecurity and antagonism, and I do not doubt that such emails are not uncommon in workplaces either. Of course, well-meaning people can grate on us through no fault of their own, but when intentional, just those split seconds of dismay upon reading the message can be a downer.

This is why I’m thrilled that, at the time of publication, our Wymondham GCSE and A-Level students have finished their exams and are enjoying their summer of freedom! I hope they manage to break away from the tense emotional baggage of school and have some fun.

Of course, a key summer component is one’s chosen reading list, and my choices often reflected the ‘break away’ theme. As an English Literature student, summer was time I often spent indulging in the books that you would never feel brave enough to mention in elite echelons of seminar rooms. Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Robert Galbraith and Margery Allingham remain some of my guilty pleasure authors – all the big names in classic crime fiction. For other people, it’s romance rather than crime: all the authors promoted on TikTok, like Colleen Hoover or Sally Rooney. To quote Ricky Gervais, “I’m too old for that app, but I appreciate the love. Keep up the good work.” Oddly, his feelings mirror my own on TikTok raising people’s love for books, and I have a 1 in front of my age.

A summer author I’d recommend to all is T.M. Logan. His work is a common denominator between me and others who don’t usually share my tastes; I would even venture that he would capture people who don’t initially think they like reading. He is a bestselling thriller writer, the author of books such as 29 Seconds, Lies, and The Holiday (which later became a Netflix drama), and the ultimate guilty-pleasure writer. His books contain Hitchcockian levels of suspense, and his storytelling is very economical: not a word is wasted. For English students like me who love the classics but fancy some instant gratification, this will satisfy you. For others who gave up on the Kiera Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice because “not much was happening” (I affectionately quote someone I know), this will certainly satisfy you.

Ironically, his work relates to this article’s earlier theme: passive-aggressive comments. Lies is an example. The novel follows a schoolteacher, married with a four-year-old son, who is slowly embroiled in a plot to frame him for a crime. His eyes are opened to society’s passive backstabbing in the process. “Stay local, Joe. We’ll be in touch,” says the police officer after a ‘friendly’ interview. (“Stay local.” What a slimy farewell.) “Stay off school property, there’s a good chap,” says the school’s publicity manager, adding “there’s a good chap” unnecessarily. T.M. Logan depicts these side comments so accurately.

Happy Summer, folks – I hope you can break away in any way possible!

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