Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest, with a Few Observations by Frank Dobie


Nobody should specialize on provincial writings before he has the perspective that only a good deal of good literature and wide history can give. I think it more important that a dweller in the Southwest read The Trial and Death of Socrates than all the books extant on killings by Billy the Kid. I think this dweller will fit his land better by understanding Thomas Jefferson's oath ("I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man") than by reading all the books that have been written on ranch lands and people. For any dweller of the Southwest who would have the land soak into him, Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," "The Solitary Reaper," "Expostulation and Reply," and a few other poems are more conducive to a "wise passiveness" than any native writing.

That title tells you right up front—This is a Reference Work.

What that title does not tell you is that it is beautifully written and full of pith and trenchant observation.

It is, essentially, a list of historical and non-fiction works on the West, with a heavy focus on the Southwest. There are fictional works sprinkled here and there.

Mr. Dobie has apparently read it all, has an opinion on all, and is a wise guide with an observation ever at hand.

Most books of this sort are meant for browsing, but this reader was charmed almost immediately, and I read it cover to cover as if it were hot-off-the-presses fiction.

The volume is manna for historians and researchers, or fiction writers looking to add authenticity to their tales, and simply those who love good writing and mature opinions voiced in a frank manner.

Easily one of the best reference works of its kind.

Friday, March 4, 2022

The Diezmo by Rick Bass


As it was, he died on the fifth day—in his last hours, he changed his mind and asked Sinnickson to remove the legs, though by that time he was too far gone and we had begun digging his grave even before he passed. We had him buried by that evening, still more bloody and fevered seed for that contested soil.

This brief novel of a godawful early expedition along and below the Border is rife with suffering all elegantly rendered by Mr. Bass.

There is much of the actual history intertwined with fleshing out from the author, and piquant observations such as the following abound.

 “Regardless of your beliefs in a hereafter, or a merciful God, we are flesh but once, and our choices must be made wisely.”

Or this example…

Charles McLaughlin was seated on one of the stone walls, sketching the scene before him quickly, and by the time Wallace and Cameron had the men and their stock rounded up, he had finished his sketch. Those of us who cared to look at it agreed that it was almost realistic, but we were a bit surprised that it had come from his hand, and from his eye. He had made the scene appear almost idyllic, with very little of the squalor. In that regard, the picture was false, but in the sense that it presented ourselves the way we would have liked to be seen, it was true.

Brief, well-observed, if a realistically unpleasant experience.

A superior work.

A Frontier Phrase Worth Resurrecting: “He Bubbles Pure"

  [Excerpted from our book The Frontier Stoic: Life Lessons from Those Who Lived a Life.] “ He bubbles pure .” ·         Said of a man w...