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Listening for Autumn Leaves

Charles Burchfield, Bats at Twilight, 1963 (Image credit: Burchfield Penney Art Center)

Last month, I submitted my book manuscript, a biography of H. P. Lovecraft and his New York City period, to my publisher, capping nearly two years of imaginative immersion and intensive writing. Now, I’m waiting for the peer reviewers’ critiques, a nerve-racking experience familiar to anyone who has worked with an academic journal or press. All that considered, I’m ready to return to my desk. I love reading and writing in the autumn.

As I eagerly welcome the full turn of the season, I’m beginning to draw up my traditional list of books, films, and cultural offerings to enjoy. I started early this year with Ancient Sorceries, a beautiful new collection of short stories by the British author Algernon Blackwood published by Pushkin Press. A haunting sense of dread pervades “The Willows,” a tale of two friends camping on an isolated island on the Danube and beset by unseen supernatural forces.

An upcoming exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming, appears to be conceived specifically for the autumn months. Nearly two decades ago, my then-girlfriend (and now wife) and I visited Salem. I found it to be a fascinating small port city layered with history. This show is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, and I wonder how it will portray and explore this chapter in New England history.

For the first time since the beginning of the ongoing pandemic (it’s not over), I’ll travel to my hometown in Western New York to see family. Stops at a maple syrup farm and a local craft brewery are already placed on the itinerary. The fall foliage in that corner of the state is brilliant.

In October, I’ll be talking about Lovecraft and New York at the King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens. Formerly the estate of Rufus King, a signatory of the Constitution and a Federalist politician, the building dates from the 1730s. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be presenting my research at such a historic home. And, yes, Lovecraft made a pilgrimage there. Twice, in fact, during the autumn of 1925.

Soon, we’ll feel a chill in the air and hear leaves rustling in the trees. I hope that you’re looking forward to the season and that you’ll share your hopes for it.

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