At 11 a.m. today, Mayor John Hickenlooper will unveil the fifth selection for the city's One Book One Denver reading program.
Here's what we know it won't be: Plainsong, Kent Haruf's lovely novel about life on the Eastern Plains, rejected early on because of a teenage sex scene.
And it won't be The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, the first-time novel by David Wroblewski that was published in June and has earned raves. For starters, the book isn't yet out in paperback, a requirement of the program. And it's more than 500 pages, which puts it beyond the optimum length. If we ask nicely -- Wroblewski lives here, after all -- maybe he can trim some pages from the paperback edition. And while he's at it, maybe change the disappointing ending?
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Nor will it be On the Road. If Denver were to pick the Jack Kerouac classic, last year -- which marked the ffiftieth anniversary of its original publication -- would have been the time to do so. But one of the stipulations was that the book's author had to be alive. And Kerouac, like his prose, is way gone. (By the way, Kerouac's Dharma Bums turns fifty this year.)
And forget Mark Twain, even though Roughing It, his account of his travels through the West, includes this wonderful description of the South Platte: "We came to the shallow, yellow, muddy South Platte, with its low banks and its scattering flat sand-bars and pigmy islands -- a melancholy stream straggling through the centre of the enormous flat plain, and only saved from being impossible to find with the naked eye by its sentinel rank of scattering trees standing on either bank. The Platte was 'up,' they said -- which made me wish I could see it when it was down, if it could look any sicker and sorrier."
Also falling into the dead author category is John Fante, one of the best, least-known authors of this century -- a particular favorite of Westword managing editor Jonathan Shikes, and a writer who happened to be born in Denver 99 years ago. Which means the city has exactly one year to ditch its no-dead-author rule and pick Fante's 1939 Ask the Dust as a hundredth birthday present next year. It would be reason to celebrate.
We've catalogued more local literary landmarks -- complete with Kenny Be illustrations -- here, in "Paint the Town Read." Study up while you await the announcement of this year's tome on the range. -- Patricia Calhoun