Between trips to research archives, conferences, libraries where my students might do projects, trips to see family and friends, I seem to spend a fair amount of time on the road. So I don’t mind being at home on a day when the sky is an opaque gray, soft and undistinguished. The air would be thick and too heavy, like a sweater out of season, if it weren’t for intermittent winds tossing the highest tree branches. These stirrings hint at a Midwestern thunderstorm, a classic of summer afternoons.
For now, though, it’s still just a summer’s day. My fingers smell of the basil I’ve been deadheading, and my cat has decided that if I’m hanging out on the deck, he is, too.
My travels are imaginary rather than actual, along the lines of Emily Dickinson’s “There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away ….” Arguably, when I’m reading a book that’s set in Southern Indiana, it’s not exactly a long-haul flight, this imaginary jaunt. But the world captured in the pages of Snapper is so perfectly redolent of Southern Indiana that even inside an air-conditioned house, one feels the stickiness of the air and senses the scents given off by the plants and the places Nathan Lochmueller frequents as he watches birds and navigates the region’s distinctive climate.
Even if I hadn’t lived in Bloomington, it would be hard for me not to be amused by a narrator who spends his time walking a dog and reading Pride & Prejudice in the historic Rose Hill cemetery. Whose idle hours with friends are spent in a vengeful variation on “Who plays you in the movie?”, in which they “made up book titles people we didn’t like might write” (106). Who summarizes travel in this part of the world by observing, “If there is any advantage to being a Hoosier, it is in the ability to drive on bad terrain at unsafe speeds and through town at greater speeds and in violation of every known traffic law yet arrive safely in one piece” (36). Who says of its weather, “There’s a week in May and about two in October when Indiana slips on a nice dress and calls you sweetheart for no good reason” (179).
Late one night, while reading — and laughing — before falling asleep, I snapped this photo of my cat with the book.
I’d try doctoring the picture, to make it worthy of the marvelous read that this book is. If I didn’t have to dash inside with this computer before the storm breaks. If I didn’t suspect that the power would soon go out. If ….