This weekend, while you’re working the grill or attending a parade or sitting in traffic, conversation will turn, inevitably, to the end of summer. How fast it’s gone by, someone will remark, always incredulous. You’ll nod along and say something wistful about how you could smell a crispness in the air this morning, or how few weeks are left of good tomatoes. Someone will wail about having seen silos of candy corn looming large and in charge at the supermarket and the next thing you know, it’s fall. Time to put on long pants and real shoes, time to straighten up and fly right.
Labor Day, nominally a holiday celebrating the industriousness of the American worker, also serves to remind the worker that they haven’t been quite as industrious as they might have been these past three months. All summer, deadlines and dentist appointments were easily waved off until After Labor Day, a time that felt far enough in the future that you’d be sufficiently rested to confront whatever unpleasantness these obligations entailed.
In his eulogy for summer’s lazy days in The Times today, my colleague Stephen Kurutz mourns the vestiges of truly unmonitored working from home that this fall seems to augur: “Will we forget the small pleasure of sitting on a porch and looking at the yard?” he writes. “Of taking what some might consider to be too much time over a morning coffee? Of trading the daily commute for an aimless drive?”
Why must there be such an austere demarcation between before Labor Day and after, between summer and not-summer, between enjoying our lives and enduring them? Why have we so internalized the back-to-school dread of childhood that it’s become a permanent feature of adulthood?
I know there are people (many of them! and so vocal!) who enjoy the ramrod posture of fall, who find the post-Labor Day realignment invigorating. I’m not immune to the appeal of a unified buckling down, of the tacit understanding that we’ll put away our childish things and finally set a date for the catch-up lunch we’ve been gesturing at since May. But let’s ease into it.
I challenge you, this year, to own every last day until the equinox (Sept. 23 at 2:49 a.m. Eastern in the Northern Hemisphere). Sure, the first day of school has come and gone, the vacation people have returned from their vacationing, rested and restive, muttering about Q4 and getting a jump start on Christmas shopping. But there are still three weeks left of summer, plenty of time both for nimbu pani and pumpkin spice alike. Plenty of time to integrate your summer self — looser, less fretful — into the incipient and inevitable enterprise of fall.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
📚 “The Fraud” (Tuesday): Zadie Smith has written one of the first big books of the fall season. Set in 19th-century London, it concerns a past-his-prime novelist, his Scottish housekeeper and the real-life trial involving a man claiming to be the presumed dead heir to a great fortune. As our reviewer writes, “As always, it is a pleasure to be in Zadie Smith’s mind.”
📚 “Holly” (Tuesday): Stephen King writes as much in the thriller and suspense zone as he does horror these days, and his latest book is the sixth featuring his increasingly endearing private investigator, Holly Gibney. Introduced as a side character in 2014’s “Mr. Mercedes,” she takes center stage in this sometimes grisly tale of a series of disappearances and the older college professors who may be responsible.
Corn Salad With Tomatoes, Basil and Cilantro
Prove Melissa’s point that summer isn’t over just because Labor Day has arrived, with a salad teeming with corn, cherry tomatoes, basil and cilantro (which made a timely appearance this week in my newsletter, The Veggie). Genevieve Ko smartly zaps the corn in the microwave for easy shucking and optimal sweetness, a hack worth passing on during holiday cookout small talk.
Antique designs: A Seattle house, built by a former ship captain as a replica of his childhood home in Norway, gets an update.
What you get for $1.1 million: A 1790 house in Washington, Conn.; a three-building compound in Warrenton, Va.; or a midcentury home in Boise, Idaho.
The hunt: They wanted a home in Lower Manhattan for less than $500,000. Which one did they choose? Play our game.
Healthy eating: Can this diet prevent dementia?
Skin care: Retinol can counter signs of aging and treat acne, but can be tricky to apply. Here’s how to use it.
Dominate game night: How to win at Monopoly.
Drippy: Fashion designers have long been fascinated by creating the illusion of wetness.
ADVICE FROM WIRECUTTER
Clean your grill
After a holiday weekend of barbecuing, you might start to think about preparing your grill for winter hibernation. That starts with a thorough deep clean. Wirecutter experts have laid out the best ways to rid your grill of built-up gunk. Gas grill owners: Don’t forget to disconnect the propane tank, and remove the battery from the igniter so it doesn’t corrode during the winter. Taking these steps now will ensure that your grill will be burger-ready come spring. — Lesley Stockton
L.S.U. vs. Florida State, college football: After more than six months away, football is back, and nearly all of the top college teams start their seasons this weekend. The marquee matchup will be between the No. 5 Louisiana State Tigers and the No. 8 Florida State Seminoles. The Tigers, whose offense is stocked with returning starters, will be looking for revenge after losing to the Seminoles by one point last year in a thriller. But it won’t be easy; Florida State’s quarterback, Jordan Travis, is widely considered to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. 7:30 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on ABC.