Friday, August 13, 2010

The Autumn Reading List

The path home is not lengthy. The distance is short and I make this commute so often. I'm surprised I haven't got the steps counted, I am a counter after all. If not the steps then the blocks. For those of you familiar with Denver, you'll know what I mean by a short distance. In the afternoon, I begin at the Kittredge Building on Glenarm Street and Sixteenth Street and I end at 9th Avenue and Sherman Street.

The first leg of this commute crosses over a few streets: Tremont, Court, Cleveland Place, then Broadway. I walk the stairs that separate the old Denver Post Building from Civic Center Station. This route avoids the Colfax and Broadway intersection which is suspect not to mention incredibly busy in the afternoons. When I emerge from the far side of the bus station I cross both Colfax and Lincoln, and this is somehow better than the aforementioned intersection.

I then climb the stairs on the grounds of the Colorado State Capital. This part of the journey I always figure is the funniest. Someone has painted 2+2=5 on the cement sidewalk there and I love it because it reminds me of 1984. As for me, we've all heard the saying about the whore in church, but what about the anarchist on the grassy grounds of the state capital? I love this part of the walk because of the dichotomy: me and this environment. Alas, just as we learned in geometry the most direct way from one point to another is a straight line. When I leave the capital grounds I'm on 14th Avenue and Sherman Street. From there I cross 13th, 12th, 11th and 10th. Then I'm home. You see, not a very long walk. It takes about 20 minutes. I make this walk twenty or more times in the course of a week. I'm well accustomed to it.

On this walk, I know the time of day by the activity level and by the amount, if not types, of people out. For instance: early in the morning on the 1300 block of Sherman all you see are the government workers heading for offices or pigeon holes. Conversely, late in the evening on Poet's Row (Between 10th and 11th Streets on Sherman) there is a dude on the stoop of every building strumming a guitar in a wait and strike position serenading any opportunity for an ear or a love affair.

In short, I love it here and I do my best to notice it, it's life, it's the city, it's the canvas for my mind's portraits and landscapes. But the times of day are one thing. The time of day, as we know from activity, happens most everyday, and on any day of the year.

The other day as I wandered up the hill to the capital there was a very strange change. The quality of light and the air had a shift in them. It's August. It's August and it suddenly felt like autumn. Once the thought occurred to me, I snapped forward—I looked at the still green trees, I felt the summer comfort of cicadas in their song, I felt secure that construction workers at the defunct Colorado Judicial Building were still sweating while dismantling the ugly, old building. I reassured myself that it was still August and the autumn feeling was the premonition of days to come and that I had not lost my way home through downtown Denver or lost my way through time.

Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that it was a hot afternoon, summer like, and it was eerily like the first day of school.

I paid attention to the shadows. I paid attention to the small urban currents of air making eddies in between buildings and city blocks. Then I thought of Jerzy Kosinski. Mark Dragotta and I had been talking about books. I told him that The Painted Bird was the kind of book to read on a sunny day. Then we talked about All Quiet on the Western Front which I had finished reading that very morning when we realized through the course of conversation that books as such are best in summer during the warm and sunny days. Why should we wait until the short and cold days of winter for such dark books? Hell, the two of us read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides last January. Although every line of every paragraph of The Virgin Suicides is wonderfully quotable, the most pertinent line for our conversation goes like this: “Winter is the time for alcoholism and depression.” Both Mark and I agreed, this is exactly what winter is good for... But winter isn't here yet, not in any way. As we talked about books though, we talked about books appropriate to a mood or a time.

Whew! That was such along preamble. Let's think about a reading list again, and let's think about the autumn coming on again. A seasonal reading list is something I've never done before. I suppose I did have a reading list broken down by semester during graduate school, but it's not the same thing. I won't go so far as to say I was forced to read in grad school, but I was forced to commit to a list. As far as a season goes, Autumn, Winter, Spring or Summer, none of these reading lists corresponded to a specific season. In fact, during a semester the weeks moved through several seasons: “fall” ran from June until November and “spring” ran from January until May.

I digress. As I feel the emanate end of summer, I want the autumn to return to me with grace. And all said, I've decided to grace this autumn with a planned and specific reading list. This is the list I've assembled:

In the Penal Colony, Franz Kafka
Around the word in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
Beyond the Wall, Edward Abbey
Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo
After Dark, Haruki Murakami
The Joke, Milan Kundera
Pinball, Jerzy Kosinski
The Waves, Virgina Woolf
In the Lake of the Woods, Tim O'Brien
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

Anyone out there who has an autumn reading list, please share it. I always enjoy discussing books. I can't wait to see what happens. And perhaps in the months to come while walking home I'll conceive of the winter's reading list too.

Next time:

Reading as writers.

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