July First

July first. It parts the year like the part in a head of hair. I had foreseen it as a boundary marker for me–yesterday one kind of me, tomorrow a different kind.

The light-rimmed boundary of the east was July, for June had gone away in the night. July is brass where June is gold, and lead where June is silver. July leaves are heavy and fat and crowding. Birdsong of July is a flatulent refrain without passion, for the nests are empty now and dumpy fledglings teeter clumsily. No, July is not a month of promise or of fulfillment. Fruit is growing but unsweet and uncolored, corn is a limp green bundle with a young and yellow tassel. The squashes still wear umbilical crowns of dry blossom.

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

I was in an American literature class during my graduate training, and the professor, Mark Bauerlein, described Steinbeck as a writer stuck in his time in contrast to more transcendent writing. I think there’s a lot of truth to that, but I just can’t shake this passage from the Winter of Our Discontent. That’s a novel that’s moralizing about the decay of American society and stuck in it’s own time, but look at this passage! I was last struck by this in 2016–the end of my first year at Emory, and something about this year has brought it back to mind.

What do you think about it? What is July like for you?

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