From The American Scholar: “Turning Leaves and Turning Pages”

From a post on headlined “Turning Leaves and Turning Pages”:

Now that the temperature outside is finally beginning to drop, the prospect of spending even more time in our houses actually feels welcome—plus, it’s an excellent reason to revisit our favorite fall-themed tales. Some of these are chilling, others comforting—all of them, if we do say so ourselves, pair quite nicely with a blanket and a hot beverage.

Autumn by Ali Smith
The first of the acclaimed Scottish writer’s four seasonal novels, Autumn might be the first post-Brexit novel to wrestle with the aftermath of that fateful vote—it was certainly the first that captured my attention. The book’s connection to the season is more abstract than literal (though it does take place in the fall), as it captures the sunset of a long friendship between Daniel, an elderly songwriter in a care home, and Elisabeth, who was his next-door neighbor as a child. Stephanie Bastek

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
This book has been my favorite ever since I first heard it read aloud, and among its many charms is that it contains perhaps the most pitch-perfect, bittersweet description of fall in all of literature:

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.”

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year—the days when summer is changing into fall—the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

This may not be the most tragic passage in the book, but I think it comes close. I need look no further than outside my own window, where greens are steadily deepening into reds and golds, for proof that White had it right—summertime, despite my most desperate wishes, cannot last forever. Jayne Ross

Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury
Many of us read Bradbury’s gorgeous and timeless evocation of summer in his 1957 novel, Dandelion Wine. But I’m betting fewer people are aware of the book’s sequel, Farewell Summer, which Bradbury published a half century later, only a few years before his death. As you might guess, the novel returns readers to Green Town, Illinois, where 13-year-old Douglas Spaulding and his friends confront the end of summer and onset of autumn in all of its metaphorical aspects. At the center of the action is Green Town’s clock tower, relentlessly ticking off the seconds of their lives. Bruce Falconer

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun
Although Hamsun’s novel—which begins with a man heading alone into the wilderness of northern Norway—depicts all seasons, I tend to associate it with the fall. This is, after all, Hamsun’s love song to the earth, a powerful, understated, and poetic depiction of living off the land, far from the corrupting influences of the city. The man, red-bearded and ox-strong, soon meets a woman who becomes his wife, and together they manage the steadily growing homestead—tilling soil, sowing grain, planting potatoes, tending the cows, sheep, and goats. The apotheosis of this yearly cycle is the autumn harvest, upon which everything depends. As Hamsun writes, “Grain was bread, grain or no grain meant life or death.” Sudip Bose

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