Summer’s End

Hot today. Went to an orientation meeting with our new students this morning, then came home & finished reading the last (for now) of my Patrick O'Brian novels, which have been this summer's addiction. I didn't do much writing this summer, but I finished up several projects around the house -- finally got the new floor down in the kitchen & all the trim repainted & rehung. I'm sitting on the deck with my new laptop as I write this, connected to my newly upgraded wireless network. I am surrounded by maple trees just beginning to show the first signs of their fall colors. After being sweaty all day, I am enjoying the cool breeze off the river. The tavern down in the village is having its annual pig roast tonight & I can hear the rumble of what sounds like a very bad bar band mixed with the rumble of the bikers' machines coming across the river. Loud voices. I'm going to miss the adventures of Jack Aubery & Stephen Maturin as recounted in O'Brian's novels. I'm a sucker for detailed fictional worlds. Last summer I read all three of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars novels, though I stalled out 200 pages from the end of the last volume. I've got another dozen of the O'Brian books to go & though I'm putting them aside for the semester, I feel pretty certain I will take them up again over winter break & then finish off the whole series next summer. O'Brian's virtue as a novelist, for me, is that he is a good storyteller with an obsessive commitment to historical facts. Though I have almost no interest in film or TV drama, I find written narrative addictive. And while I have nothing against allegory & parable, I am drawn to fictions filled with information. It has been a real pleasure this summer to laze away hours at a time inside accounts of early 19th century navel warfare & exploration. O'Brian said that his favorite novelist was Jane Austin, which might surprise a reader coming to him for the first time; but the further into O'Brian's world one goes, the more one sees Austin's influence. O'Brian's world is ultimately held together by social relationships that are just sufficiently different from those with which we are familiar to be interesting. I have been preparing my fall classes off & on all summer, but tomorrow morning, I will put aside the slightly narcotic world of the Aubery-Maturin novels (& of summer) & put the finishing touches on the syllabus for my creative writing class & on Monday I will fully resume my academic persona, put partly aside over the summer. Quite happily. In teaching the technical side of writing, I hope I never lose sight of the intoxicating power of imaginary worlds. All worlds, finally, are imaginary. Because my students are invariable beginners, I begin with the intoxication & then begin to show them how to shape it. That's the idea, anyway -- to move from summer's Innocence into fall's Experience. Now there is a capacious metaphor, courtesy of William Blake, with whose Songs of Innocence & Experience I will begin my first-year course on Tuesday.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

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