Monday, August 9, 2010

Never Say Cicada

Day 182 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Patrick is going to be reading a lot of books, because he wanted to use his credit card and he'd come in for Walden ($3) and Daniel Quinn (which we didn't have), and we only take credit cards for $5 and up (because of the annoying charges) so I said, "Have you looked on the Select New Arrivals shelf?"

He found great stuff. Because he had wanted Quinn, I pointed out Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, for its amazing blend of philosophy and circumstances, as reported to me by Gary, Tony, and other happy readers. It is in a yet-to-read stack here in my house.

I asked if he'd read Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, because there it was, a classic we have trouble hanging onto, and, sure enough, he hadn't. He had read two Vonnegut books he liked a lot--Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle--so when he saw Jailbirds and Breakfast of Champions, he snapped those up, too!

When I asked why he wanted to read Thoreau's Walden, he said he'd seen the film Into the Wild, and wanted to see why someone would want to go into the wild. In the book by Jon Krakauer about Chris McCandless, we learn that Chris was reading Thoreau before he went on his own discovery of wilderness and self.

Odd, how a little technology hassle should lead to an armful of books. Don't worry, no one forced him. He chose them all himself and had time to change his mind. Boss was on the phone, so I couldn't use the credit card machine till he got off. (Hmm, unfortunate phrasing, perhaps.) Anyhoo, that technology glitch gave Patrick time to think it over, and he wanted the whole stack.

And now for the cicada. Billy Collins famously announced in his introduction to The Best American Poetry 2006 that he couldn't make it past the word "cicada" in a poem, even though his poem "The Student" in The Trouble with Poetry (Random House, 2005) of course has the word "cicada" in it. I always see the fondness, subtlety, and depth in Collins, as well as the humor, and actually enjoyed his snippiness in Ballistics. He has a right to be snippy; people are always sniping at him. But, as I am writing prose at the moment, I have no fear of cicadas, alive, in language, or as empty shells.

Last night, just before we surrendered to air conditioning, I was enjoying the bit of breeze coming in my window from an area with an evergreen bush and a flower bed that provide a little privacy screen in my cool, sunken office space. Suddenly something crashed against the glass window above the screen. A bat? A transformer moth? A persistent possum? No, of course it was a cicada! A Dog Day Cicada, here in the dog days of August.

4 comments:

nene said...

Isn't a cicada a 'transformer moth'? Do they make as large a sound as a small bird who thinks my front picture window or my patio sliding door are runways into Nene's world?
I have had a possum and believe it or not (I always provide this option)a pretty red fox once peered, voyeuristically, into my back patio sliding door. Good thing I was covered up at least from the waist up. Hmmm! that makes me wonder if it was a Jason Alexander moment in one of Seinfeld's sitcom episodes?

Kathleen said...

nene, we have had red foxes in the neighborhood, too, but not since the hawks moved in! Plenty of possum, too.

The "transformer moth" I made up in my mind was an electronic alien.

And, yes, the sound was as loud as small birds crashing into glass. These cicadas are about as big as hummingbirds!

Julie Kistler said...

This isn't about cicadas, but it reminded me of you and your quest to find out what people are reading. http://www.slate.com/id/2261955/

nene said...

I knew 'transformer moth' was a fantasia creation in your mind. I thought your reference to 'transformer' was humorous. I've seen some cicada shells that they leave behind that were approx. the size of hummingbirds.
I was trying to be humorous with my reference to the seinfeld episode, I hope you caught it. Yes, we have had the same situation with the red fox vs hawks. My reseidence is not that far from you, just east.