Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome October

The temperature was 41º F (5º C) this morning as I stumbled out of bed around seven; the furnace had come on spontaneously for the first time this fall, I could see my breath as I got the papers in this morning. (This being Thursday even the local paper had delivered a pile of ads wrapped in news of the Tigers nearing the pennant, Saturn dying—the car brand I mean, not the planet—and of the State of Michigan beginning the process of unraveling because the legislature can’t pass a budget). At the same time the sun is shining brilliantly, the grass is still green, fall and summer colors are mixing. Yes, this is the way I like to cross datelines—with clear and unambiguous markers laid down. I like it when Mother Nature deigns to respect our calendar and behaves as she’s expected to.

The New York Times editors chose the following quote for this year’s October 1st: “Can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?” The Times was quoting Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development in a front-page story about “hybrid” books, those able to mix words, sounds, videos, and images. To answer the professor: “Some can, Maryanne!” I’m sure I’m not speaking for myself alone. I read (past tense) such classic books—and books enormously more obscure—while working full time and commuting an hour both ways. One son-in-law—whose daily e-mail load is light when it is under 50 messages, and whose real work begins after all the meetings, thus around 4 p.m.—squeezes time for just such reading between work for money and work for the public: he is also mayor of his town. He also plays old boy rugby. So yes, you can, Maryanne—if you want to. But, in any case, welcome also to cultural October.

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