Fred Setterberg is the author of Lunch Bucket Paradise: A True-Life Novel and The Roads Taken: Travels Through America’s Literary Landscapes, winner of the AWP prize in creative nonfiction. He and Lonny Shavelson co-authored Under the Dragon: California’s New Culture and Toxic Nation: The Fight to Save Our Communities from Chemical Contamination. He is also the co-author of several books about philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. He lives in Oakland, California.
These mornings, my wife Ann and I dip into The Poets Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt, reading aloud over coffee selected morsels by William Stafford, Maxine Kumin, Elizabeth Bishop, and Ted Kooser (Ann, like Kooser, hails from Nebraska). As an alternative, we’ve been finishing off Wisconsin poet Pamela Gemin’s earthy, funny, winningly musical collection, Another Creature. She’s terrific, and more people should know about her.
If only it would rain hard, and very long, I might get past the first chapter in Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. I like to wrap myself up in big, fat histories during the long, cold, wet evenings of winter. (Last year, I finally tackled Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, after carting it around for a third of my life.) I drilled through Chernow’s The House of Morgan at the start of the financial meltdown in 2008, and thought Hamilton might nicely bookend the crisis. Guess it’ll have to wait for worse weather and better times.
Fred Afflerbach’s new novel, Roll On: A Trucker’s Life on the Road, is waiting patiently to be picked up—a means to travel much at home. I’ve been reading Zola, buying dog-eared paperback editions in our local independent bookstores. (Thank you, Oakland’s Walden Pond and Spectator Books.) Soon I will have to choose between Earth, Nana, and The Belly of Paris for my next installment in the Rougon-Macquart series.
Although it’s normally assigned to high school sophomores, I just finished reading The Oxbow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. That’s led to listening in my car to the CD rendition of The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—and How It Changed the American West by Jeff Guinn. The previous book I listened to was Keith Richard’s Life, inexplicably read in alternating passages by Johnny Depp, Joe Hurley, and the man himself. Twenty CDs wasn’t nearly enough.
To move from the figurative bedside to an actual piece of furniture, I continue to keep within grasp my childhood collection of Hardy Boys mysteries, the unearthly exploits of space cadet Tom Corbett, and the best, but least known of boys’ adventure tales, the Rick Brant series by John Blaine. I last read The Lost City, about Rick’s explorations in Tibet, to my godson Patrick when he was 11 or so. He turns 22 next month. I think it may be time to re-read Stairway to Danger or The Caves of Fear.