One Book One, One Denver suggestion: Steve Katz's Time's Wallet
We've made no secret about our beef with One Book, One Denver -- specifically, that the program doesn't try very hard to find unknown novels by great authors, or even books by Colorado authors -- but so far this year we've neglected to put our money where our mouth is. So here's the first of many we'd like to see on the ballot someday -- this one comes to us from a Colorado transplant and former director of the University of Colorado at Boulder's creative writing program.
When we chatted with Katz last year about his new book, we didn't know exactly what to expect from it, but now it's in our hands, we know it's a potential One Book, One Denver candidate -- even if it shuns the usual politically correct, all-ages atmosphere of the whole thing.
Time's Wallet is, by an unsure route, a memoir. But it's not the type of memoir you're used to; instead it's a mishmash of short excerpts from his life presented in a non-linear manner. Before landing in Denver, Katz was born in the Bronx, travelled around a bit, took a job that put him in feathers, hung out with Thomas Pynchon (who we're getting a vibe he's not particularly fond of), did some mining, gave up writing and did plenty of other important and non-important stuff detailed in the book.
He's been a Colorado resident long enough to carry our pedigree, and even though the stories in Time's Wallet often end up full of crudeness and innuendo and are probably not suited for the safe style usually associated with One Book, One Denver, they do offer a varied look at the world as a whole, with Colorado operating both as a goal and as a means to provide context. It's as much about getting to Colorado as it is about getting away from everywhere else -- or to anywhere. It's proud and it's not, it's incidental and it's the most important thing ever, it covers it all in a way few books could or do.
It's also funny, one thing we whole-heartedly support in One Book, One Denver, since it seems like choosing books with titles like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is just going to bum the whole city out for a while. That's not to say they're not good books, they're probably just dandy, but Time's Wallet manages to be heartwarming, sad, triumphant and absurd all in the span of just one of its 54 stories. Katz might not have been born here, but he's from here.
After all, that's what Colorado is all about: It's about the transplants, the people who moved here after being everywhere else. Katz shows us the rest of the world through a chain-smoking professor at Cornell or a jazz club in New York City. He even writes what we all think when we're travelling and meet people: "I feel almost coerced to promote Denver, or New York City, but it seems irrelevant; after all, we're in Athens."