As a writer (sort of), pop culture lover and David Sedaris fan in my 30s whose wife doesn’t always understand my obsession with summer camp, I found myself relating over and over again to Cabin Pressure, which entertainment writer Josh Wolk wrote about his experience going back to his camp the summer before his wedding (2003) to be a 34-year-old counselor.
While you could file Cabin Pressure in with other experiential novels like The Year of Living Biblically or Paper Lion, Wolk’s act of sacrificing a summer to go back to camp isn’t so much a feat – sure the younger staff members don’t get his references – as it is a swan song to his youth.
Figuring it’s his last chance to run a cabin at Eastwind (a stand-in for Camp Kabeyun, an all-boys camp on Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire) and a good excuse for getting some time off from his day job at Entertainment Weekly, Wolk documents his eight weeks supervising 14-year-old boys in Bears cabin with a mixture of nostalgia, dry wit and anyone-whose-ever-been-to-camp-gets-it humor. Self-reflective and heart on his sleeve vulnerable – particularly when his nemesis Mitch from his days at camp is around – Wolk deftly hones in on how challenging it is to actually be a counselor, particularly for eight straight weeks (my max was two weeks in a row and that was plenty). To say being a camp counselor is a thankless job is an understatement, but what other job can you get as a high school, college student or writer on sabbatical with a book deal that’s as rewarding as having an impact on a group of 14-year-olds?
An engaging and comical portrait of camp life – annoying campers, irresponsible staff members and all – Cabin Pressure is a must-read for anyone nostalgic about their time either as a camper or counselor at summer camp. In fact, if I had to pick a book that would best sum up why I do a blog like Summer Camp Culture, Cabin Pressure would be the first one that would come to mind.