Of half-skinned steers and moonshots

In this summer of the soak, this reign of rain, and with the sun’s kiss so rarely offered, my mind wanders to reading. Perhaps it’s also because of the perceptibly slower pace of the city. Business loosens its grip enough to notice a few less cars on the street, a few less frowned and earnest foreheads in suits walking against the traffic lights. Summer is 30 on the speedometer of life. Reading in this time of the year further calms the heart and nudges the mind.

Interested readers of this blog will know I have my favorites.  For fiction these days, I cannot get enough of Cormac McCarthy. Everywhere there is sadness and hope, there you will find his characters, fascinating, awful, and proud. His work is weighty and light, easy to read and difficult to accept. Sometimes I read one of his sentences and I pause to stare at its brilliance. How is it possible for a writer to describe a scene of such vividness in so few words? Annie Proulx is another.  Her depiction of the beauty and danger of place and people rivets me. I have read no other who can give me the perspective of a half-skinned steer  as it exacts its revenge on a mean farmer. Who else? Alice Munro. Around 80, she can still write a short story that runs gently over the surface of normalcy then turns a corner and confronts some sort of dread of physicality or spirit. I am glad I’ve read their body of work before the imaginations of these giants go silent.

But I also read non-fiction and I’m particularly attracted to writing that timelessly speaks of universal truths. Often such pieces are in the political realm and I will end this post with something I came across today. Remember Apollo 11? Its mission was the first manned moon landing. I was 10 when it took place and I distinctly recall thinking, “What happens if something goes wrong and they can’t get back?” What I don’t remember is anyone asking the same question out loud, on TV, on radio, or among the people who populated my little life. Well, apparently, I was not a unique thinker. As it turns out, it was a thoroughly thought out scenario to the extent that William Safire, President Nixon’s speech writer, wrote a speech in the event the President would need to bid farewell to the astronauts. I close with the link to the letter. Enjoy your summer reading.

In the event of a moon disaster