Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reading Down the Bones

I was raised "interesting". It did not seem so at the time, but what child ever really understands that their life may not be normal? It is in a nature of their very being to take whats put before them and run with it. What was put before me was a life in the outdoors, surrounded by art and books and guns, without other children, among the company of writers and cowboys, wetbacks and artists. And I thought that was how everyones life was.
In my grand old age of 22 I now wish I had paid more attention. But at the same time as I cannot fully grasp what I may have lost due to inattention, I dont think I can fully grasp how much I gained that I simply take as "the way it is", that yet few others have or could understand.

I have, through no organized intention, recently returned to some of the more interesting people of my childhood via literature. Now, I claim no particularly deep knowledge, connection, or friendship, with these men - Simply that I knew them, via my father, and ignored them in the way only children can adults.
Stephen Bodio was that weird guy with the dogs and falcons that my dad used to talk country living, guns and hunting with in the post office, gas station or coffee shop for what seemed like tedious hours to a six year old. I always knew he was a writer, but never really paid much attention until recently. While searching blogger several months ago I came across his excellent blog, Stephen Bodio's Querencia, much to my surprised delight. It has been a regular read ever since. At my parents home a few weeks ago, I was raiding their bookshelves for a few different volumes - Intending to borrow 10,00 Goddamn Cattle by Katie Lee, and Horseman Pass By by McMurtry, and whatever else I could lay hands on, I saw they had somewhere acquired a second paperback copy of Bodio's autobiographical work Querencia, so I nabbed that as well. It was, as its turned out, the only member of a foot-plus tall stack which I've read since taking it. Other reviewers have already said a lot about this work, and its depth, and power, which I dont disagree with, or feel like repeating. Correct they are that Querencia is a great work, a heartfelt memoir of a person, a place, and a time. It is that, and at least for me, much more. Filled with rich details of people, falcons, guns, hunting, the country, and simple day to day life in an incredibly unique place, Querencia, is more than a simple memoir of loss. It is a fundamental account of exactly its title, a querencia.
As a writer who firmly believes, yet also struggles with the idea, that the best writing is done scared, done aching and afraid of whats on the paper but knowing it would be unhealthy to quit, I was fascinated and moved by Bodio's writing. Writing so freshly on the heels of a great loss, and detailing not the loss alone but the life before it, must have been both painful and healing, and it shows in the words, some of which simply bleed. Further, as a native resident of the small mountain community Bodio describes, more than the words of hope and sorrow bleed for me - People, places, events I knew, or have known, since childhood are described in loving detail. Seeing these individuals and things through the fresh eyes of Bodio, writing as the outsider coming in, was immensely pleasurable at the same time as it was often sad. Querencia has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf as a work of great love, and a documentation of a place and time that also exists somewhat in my own history, which is now gone.

David E. Stuart was one of my father's professors during a return stint to college, working on an archeology degree. Being homeschooled I tagged along to many of my parents classes while they were finishing up their degree's and sat in on many lectures, including from Dr. Stuart. Recently I've been reading his novel Flight of Souls, and quite enjoying it. Having spent a great deal of time in Mexico (particularly the Mexico that was), his insights into 1960's Mexico and the life available to an American ex-pat there are probably second to none. His writing is not as vivid, or stylish, as other writers tackling similar topics, but it is none the less rich, compelling and rewarding. The benefit of his anthropological and archaeological background Stuart sneaks into the fairly taught, well crafted, story of intrigue, many details on place, and culture, both of the time and of antiquity.
Several years ago I gave my dad two of Dr. Stuarts non-fiction, autobiographical, works, The Guaymas Chronicles and Zone of Tolerance, which I never read but now think I shall have to pick up.

I am glad that in my childhood I did not entirely ignore the people around me, the adults of my parents social circle, and that they encouraged me to be among them even in my youth. I cannot ever remember being told I was not welcome at a table, or leaning on a corral fence, or gathered around a fire, even when I was the only child. And from that, I am thankful that as an adult I can return, with the experience of a couple more years, to the works those individuals have offered, and get so much from them. It is such a fundamentally satisfying experience to read a good author, a voice you can identify with, particularly when it is a voice you have actually been exposed to.

1 comment:

Matt Mullenix said...

Hi. I'll forward your review to Steve.