Perhaps only due to some residual (or is it latent?) Catholicism, autumn seems to me a season of judgement, a taking stock of one’s summer sins in particular, before being sent, like Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, into winter’s Siberian exile as punishment. How severe will this year’s judgment be? Autumn decides the sentence, and weighs the potential for redemption, demanding you consider what you’ve done to yourself and to others, whether you’ve worked hard or shirked what you know to be the year’s important work. In this election season, the country, too, will have its sentence decided, and get the candidate it deserves. Back hard at work, now penitent, we roll up sleeves for the cuffs of that first cooling breeze. Fall throws the book at you: get back to your reading, you idler, you slouch, after all the cocktails, beach trips and bike trails. Deadbeat, meet deadline: let’s see the lesson plan, how is the current draft of that manuscript coming? But as we are all, writers and law-abiding civilians alike, doing the best that we can with our fallible characters, I think internal bylaws need not be so severe. “Autumn already!” Rimbaud cries at the end of A Season in Hell, before wrapping arms around “gnarled reality.” But these stark and gnarled trees of reality don’t embrace back. If, like me, you are prone to such (self-) recriminations, I recommend finding something or someone a bit warmer to cling to, or else moving where the climate is less unforgiving.
Kenyon Review, October 2016