Every season is book reading season, but the most exciting season to read books is in the fall.
The feeling of the change from summer to fall evokes a restlessness akin to spring fever, but it’s not that, it’s the opposite. Nobody ever says ‘fall fever’ because there isn’t a word that’s the same as ‘fever’ but means a subdued undercurrent.
The crisp air catches you by surprise; the sun glares on bright days — even at noon the fall sun slants; the hovering moon is covered and then uncovered with swift dark clouds — the wind is warm and against the coolness of dark evenings, it feels like change; mountain flanks turn yellow; mountain tops turn white; you stop smoking so you can smell the leaves, and you go to the library and sit in an aisle, jacket off, surrounded by stacks of books, without knowing how you got there.
It’s the season where book clubs are re-joined and book-trading-friendships rekindled.
My oldest book-trading-friendship is with my non-biological uncle, Ron.
Ron is getting old but he still exudes a calm superhuman-ness. He’s a mountain man with big hands and a nose that was made crooked in a skill-saw accident. He builds lodges in remote mountain passes and knows by heart the glacier crevasses in the Blaeberry and Purcell mountain ranges. Ron used a flat knife with handles on each side to scrape the bark off all the beetle-infested pine trees on his property in Golden, B.C., thus killing the beetle larvae and saving the non-infested trees from the bug. Ron should have been born 200-years ago — he’s a cowboy, a loner, a grump. He’s a wit and a sucker for a good story.
Ron introduced me to the cowboy lore of the Chilcotin country via the books of Paul St. Pierre. Ron’s favorite book is Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion —the book is a staple in my slim collection. I didn’t know about the magic of science fiction or the connection between cowboys and cyberspace until I read Ron’s copy of Neuromancer by William Gibson. It led me to discover the softer parts of the vast science fiction genre, with books by Ursula Levine and Robert J. Sawyer, which I in turn earnestly recommended to Ron.
The giving part of any friendship is the best part, especially when it’s a book-sharing friendship. When I fall heavily in love with a book I often won’t recommend it to friends; it’s an awful feeling to have a book you’ve read six times be scornfully picked apart— or worse, lightly dismissed — by a respected friend.
That doesn’t happen with Ron. Ron loves every type of genre and writing type, as long as it’s good writing. Ron loves and respects a finely crafted book — it’s always safe to recommend a loved book to him. He’ll listen to my synopsis eagerly, then run and grab a pen and paper—“who wrote it again?”
I think of Ron this time of year. He gets up early — he doesn’t use a clock, he pops awake at unholy hours of the day, mixes up a hot chocolate and works for a few hours, probably bucking birch logs into firewood this time of year. He’ll take a break at around 11:00 to eat a big breakfast and read for a half hour or longer, depending on the book.
The change from summer to fall can be jarring in its subtleties — one day you realize it’s closer to snowing than to July. The change seems more bearable — safer — with a healthy stack of books on the floor next to the bed, some with “Ron Blaue” scrawled on the back of the front cover. They’re a form of protection against the darkness ahead.
It’s good to have a variety of books — some that won’t be put down, some heavy and hard to chew, some that don’t mind being forgotten for months on end. Some are compilations where any page can be flipped to, some that you read for the story, some for how it’s told, and some for both — those are the ones that get read six times. In some, the author’s use of second-person storytelling haunts, and inspires, and some that make a person stop reading for several months because that’s how long it takes for the impacts of the words to settle.
Ron loves them all.