(Host) Autumn in Vermont? Not without commentator Jules Older’s fall reading list.
(Older) There’s a new color on the mountainsides. Barton Fair has come and gone. And Steve Maleski has uttered the dreaded “frost” word on the radio. No way around it. Fall is a-knockin’ at the door.
So farewell, summer’s light and frothy reading list. Time for something with a little more meat – and a little more heat.
With Africa all over the news, it’s harder and harder to make sense of what again might be called the Dark Continent. There’s a book that will help. It’s “The Shadow of the Sun,” by the Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski. It’s wonderfully written, and it’s full of firsthand insights into the minds and lives of the people who live there.
For several decades, Kapuscinski has been one of those people. He was robbed many times. He almost died from malaria. He almost died from dehydration. He witnessed 27 coups and revolutions. And only after reading “The Shadow of the Sun” did I get my first glimmer of understanding into the bloodbath that was Rwanda, the endless civil war that is Liberia.
While we’re overseas, check out “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseni. This is nothing short of the great Afghani novel. It’s big, it’s set in three countries, it spans several decades, and it’s a great read. Maybe an even greater listen – the author reads it, himself, on audiotape. Oh, and one more thing – this big-concept, big-advance novel is Hosseni’s first book. Nice work.
“The Kite Runner” deals with the misery that was Afghanistan. “Voluntary Slavery” deals with the misery that is the Washington Post. It’s an account of four miserable years that journalist Jill Nelson spent there. Her story sometimes wallows in misery, sometimes turns funny or bawdy, and is always engaging. If you want to listen in the car, she reads it herself on Juneteenth Audio Books.
For a much brighter read, pick up “French Lessons” by Peter Mayle. He’s the author of “A Year in Provence,” “Encore Provense,” “Toujours Provence” — just about all things Provence.
“French Lessons” is all about food. Mayle visits cheese fests, sausage fests, frog and chicken fests and countless wine fests. One wine fest features an unlikely-sounding combination: wine tasting and marathon running. Makes you wonder what it’s like at the finish line.
Finally, this. When I spotted the audiotape, “Dorothy Parker, Selected Stories” in the Athaeneum library, I realized that all I actually knew of her work was the clever quip. This is the woman who, when she heard President Coolidge had died, said, “How could they tell?”
But Ms Parker’s short stories, written in the 1930s and ’40s, are deep and serious and often cynical. There’s a sadder but wiser quality to them. Something like the way Vermonters look at fall.
This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.
Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults.