We’ve just come off of an all-time record heat wave in the metro Denver area – over twenty straight days with temperatures above ninety, which included a reading of 101 degrees F. on Sunday. For air-conditioning hold-outs like my family, that meant sweltering nights with fitful sleep as the fan whipped around the air of Hades in an impossible effort to cool the room.
And in the heat of the night, I thought of a dog with its “fine powder of frost,” of ice, and air so cold that spittle crackled and froze before it hit the ground. Yes, I was thinking of one of the most memorable short stories I have ever read, To Build a Fire, by Jack London (1876-1916). I recall learning that London wrote that story from a beach chair on one of the Hawaiian islands, and my initial disbelief that anyone could write such convincing prose about the perils of death by freezing – while he lounged, carefree, the sun warm on his skin. Such was London’s skill, and such is the magic of fiction. We can change our environment any time, just by stepping into the pages of fiction. No matter how oppressive the heat, our minds are free to roam cooler worlds. We need only our imaginations and, thankfully, given the current financial climate, it’s free.
You can read this amazing short story at http://www.kingkong.demon.co.uk/gsr/fire.htm
Do you recall a time when fiction took you to a radically different world or environment? A time when, like a welcome balm, fiction healed or rescued you from harsh reality? If time permits, please share.