Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary for One Book, One Denver

For a city that embraces reading, Denver has never really embraced the One Book, One Denver program -- not even after last year's votingpalooza for the fifth edition, tied to a secret National Endowment for the Arts grant from the Big Read program, which resulted in the pick of To Kill a Mockingbird.

So far, I've struck out on every selection I've pushed. But I'm not giving up.

My previous suggestions: Plainsong, by Kent Haruf (too racy, according to Mayor John Hickenlooper, who made the first four picks); On the Road (too racy and a dead author, even though Jack Kerouac took much of his inspiration from his time in Denver, and the fiftieth anniversary of the seminal Beat Generation book gave a great hook); and Ask the Dust by John Fantean East High grad (too hard to find and, again, dead).

When Hick picked The Thin Man, that lifted the no-dead-authors rule. But still, I don't see Mark Twain's Roughing It -- Samuel Clemens' classic account of his trip West -- on this year's list, even though the hundredth anniversary of the author's death would give that book added oomph this year.

Instead, this year Denver readers get to choose between Annie Proulx's Fine Just the Way It Is; The Help, by Kathryn Stockett; and David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. At least Proulx lived in LoDo for a while, but I don't see essays making it. Wroblewski lives in the Denver area, and I loved the first 400 pages of his book -- but he lost my vote with the incendiary conclusion. Readers can make their pick at through June 15.

In the meantime, here's what I'm reading: Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary, the new book by Steve Friesen, who runs the Buffalo Bill Museum on Lookout Mountain. As Buffalo Bill, William Cody gave the world its first real modern celebrity, and this book says volumes about pop culture -- not just how the West was won, but how a showman pushing the myth of the West won over so much of the world a century ago.

It's been a fast slide from Buffalo Bill to Simon Cowell's World's Got Talent.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun