Great reading from the DU community

Whether you read for pleasure or edification or both; whether you thumb through a hardcover or swipe through a device, you’re no doubt in the market for new titles to enjoy. The University of Denver’s community of writers is happy to oblige, producing good reads that raise questions and change perspectives.

“Rerun Era” revisits an Oklahoma childhood    

In “Rerun Era” (McSweeney’s, 2019), Joanna Howard, who teaches 20th and 21st century literature in DU’s English department, takes readers back to her rural Oklahoma childhood, to a formative year that upended her sense of security and recast her relationship with her family.   

Blending adult insight with a 5-year-old’s perspective on a confusing world, “Rerun Era” anchors Howard’s experience of family upheavals against the television reruns that often gave structure, color and context to her life: everything from “Gunsmoke” and “McCloud” to “M*A*S*H” and “Taxi.” “All my adventures are there,” she writes, “inside the TV.”     

Howard (PhD ’04) composed the memoir, in part, to connect with her older brother, from whom she became estranged as her family’s troubled story played out. But she also aimed to revisit a discarded place, a part of the country whose people have been elbowed out of the national conversation. In a chapter on the so-called “rural purge” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, she puzzles over the mass cancellations of popular television shows with small-town themes and characters: “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Hee Haw,” all replaced by sitcoms with urban settings and preoccupations.  

“So all of it just stopped,” she writes. “One day, we turn on the TV and no more Marshall Dillon and Chester/Festus, no more hay rides, no more kissing cousins and DaisyDukes … and no more houses on the prairies or the banks of plum creek or anywhere rural. Just gone, like that.”  

Read it your way 

Typically, novels require that readers progress sequentially through the story, starting with chapter one and ending with the final page. With her second novel, “Bellflower” (Winter Goose Publishing, 2019), Mary Vensel White (BA ’94) offers readers the opportunity to choose different paths through her tale of several interconnected families. Because the novel’s chapters and sections can be read in any order, readers can customize their experience.

White describes “Bellflower,” set in California, as a “novel in moments,” a series of vignettes “about the mysteries of fate and chance, the delicate balance of relationships, and the resilient human spirit that keeps us striving to complete our own stories, in our own way.”  

Road trip on the Heartland Highway   

Alumnus Allan McAllister Ferguson (MA ’67, MLS ’80) has a strong appreciation for place, a lively interest in U.S. history and a restless curiosity about today’s America.  

They all intersect in “Route 36: Ohio to Colorado — America’s Heartland Highway” (WF Publishing, 2019), a guidebook that doubles as a love letter to the “two-lane experience” taking road trippers from Ulrichsville in the Buckeye State to Estes Park in the Centennial State. 

The book is full of recommended stops on the 1,400-mile journey: the Ohio Caverns in West Liberty; Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri; Gen. John Pershing’s boyhood home in the Show Me State; and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, billed as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, in the tiny town of St. Benedict. In Colorado, he directs his readers to the Vance Kirkland Museum in Denver’s own museum district, the Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder and the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.

Whether you travel Route 36 by armchair or jalopy, Ferguson offers this advice: Slow down and savor
the experience.      

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