Utica on the Map

Utica on the Map
Smack in the Center

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Upstate Writers: Frederick Busch and Snow

Frederick Busch

Almost ten years ago I attended the Chenango Writers Conference at Colgate. It's a summer conference and participants attend workshops in fiction and poetry, as well as readings by visiting writers and editors. I was lucky enough to sign up for Fred Busch's class, author of some 25 novels, admirer of Charles Dickens, realist, and all-round enthusiast. Sadly, Fred died a few years ago.

But of course, his novels and short stories live on and are often situated in Upstate New York. His descriptions of life here are pretty accurate. Here's a passage from one of his last novels, Girls, which was based on the Sara Ann Woods kidnapping and murder. Even though it's still snow showering on this cold April day, we can take heart that we are done with storms like this one:

  We had more snow on our road than I'd ever seen. I watched it from our bedroom window and our living room windows and our kitchen window. In the back room, I saw the vast amounts of snow in the field and at the edge of the woods. I saw plenty of snow...

  While she was at work, I climbed out onto the roof from an upstairs bedroom, and I tried to shovel snow. The idea was to keep the stuff from breaking through the roof. It weighed tons. The idea was also that when the snow really began to melt, it would run under the shingles, and then if it froze again and melted, it would shove the shingles off or even break through the subroof. The dog stayed below, where the lawn would be if the snow ever melted, and he barked each time I tossed a shovelful over. That added up to five barks, because the pain was too bad. I settled for edging the stuff around with a stiff leg, then kicking it sideways, in a clumsy soccer motion, to push it in powdering mounds off the roof. He didn't bark for the pushes because they were probably not very impressive."


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