The Slight Return
It is morning and it is quiet, except for the constant ringing in my ears. I realized this morning that it has been six months since I have written anything beyond a personal journal. I need to work on that. But it is Autumn and it's the time of year that I am at my best. I sleep better, the morning coffee tastes better, the highs are higher and the lows are not so severe. When September begins, I start mentally preparing for Winter, which is a time for reading and writing and, well, being a hermit.
Yes, about reading. I have been remiss with that also. At first I blamed my vision, I do need new glasses. Now I realize it's more of a mixture of apathy, ennui, and an occasional inability to focus on any one thing. And with the advent of Autumn, that too has changed for the better.
So far, since September 1, I have read one novel and hundreds (maybe) short stories. The novel is Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is an amazing storyteller, adept at magical realism, on par with Garcia Marquez and Borges. I have only read two of his novels, the other one being The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. I now want to read everything he has written that is available in English.
Have you ever read something by an author that completely rewired your brain, perhaps sensing a shift in your self-created paradigm? I have, and that author is Charles Bowden. I came across a passage from Bowden's Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America on social media a few weeks ago. I felt it, an epiphany, for want of a better term. Risking hyperbole, I was bowled over, not just in what he wrote about but how he wrote.
"I am an optimist myself, despite all the killings and the desert springs with bad water. I wrote this book because I had a simple, straightforward idea--we've been in a long war and we've lost that war and the war has poisoned us and our ground. If we admit to these facts, we might be able to survive. If we don't, it really won't matter if we survive because we will be functionally dead. Pick up any newspaper, our obituary is everywhere on the pages. I am a member of the last generation that will ever confuse the idea of progress with the accumulation of more and more material things. I may be of the last generation that will be able to say the word progress without a tone of mockery."
I have only read maybe twenty pages of Blood Orchid and I have to read everything. It's like the taste that doesn't whet the appetite, but leaves you insatiable for more. I am grateful he was such a prolific writer.
Bowden was an iconoclast and a libertine. He loved drinking, women, and hiking in the desert. He loved the desert, and made his home as a solitary writer in Las Cruces, NM. He began his career as a crime reporter, and it almost killed him. He left his career and his marriage and moved to the desert to simply write. In his lifetime, he had over twenty books published and was a contributor to numerous publications. On August 30, 2014, Bowden died at the age of 69 after a brief illness.
By the way, I always welcome comments. If you have read any Bowden, let me know what you thought. If you have a writer that has rocked your world and changed the way you look at that world, again, let me know.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go read...
Charles Bowden (1945-2014)
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