A Hill of Beanfields

I seem to recall a conversation with a certain mayor a few years ago about potential choices for the One Book, One Denver series, during which he dismissed my suggestions for probably savvy political reasons; Plainsong had a group sex scene, for example. But the knock on The Milagro Beanfield War was simpler: too long. It's still long, but yesterday Mayor John Hickenlooper named it the book for 2006, which means you need to get going as soon as possible. (Normally, the choice is named in the spring.)

And you need to read it fast, because 2007 is the year of On the Road, whether or not the city wants to acknowledge it. Unlike Jack Kerouac's classic, which marks its fiftieth anniversary next year, Milagro is not sprinkled with references to Denver. But it does have plenty of external ties to this town, including this chronology laid out by a native Coloradan now exiled to California:

Hick's pick was revealed the same week that Freddie Fender, who appeared in the movie version of The Milagro Beanfield War, died; the movie was produced by Robert Redford, who starred in All the President's Men; the lawyer who prosecuted the Watergate crooks, Archibald Cox, has a granddaughter, Melissa Hart, who is now a law prof at the University of Colorado -- and twenty or so years ago, Melissa was part of the ninth-grade class at Graland Country Day School that read The Milagro Beanfield War and took a trip to New Mexico, where students got to meet author John Nichols.

(All true, Hart said, when I tracked her down yesterday at CU.)

You can meet Nichols yourself on November 13, when he comes to town to tout his tome. Start reading -- fast. -- Patricia Calhoun