Thursday, July 27, 2017

Querencia by Stephen Bodio

The Book Club didn't make it all the way south to Magdalena, but were treated at Prof. Easterling's home to photos taken on a recent investigative field trip.  This followed locating our own Querencia at the Greenside Cafe in Cedar Crest, where we were introduced to the Webster's definition:

Querencia (noun, Spanish origin, c. 1640): Fettuccine noodles tossed with creamy, garlicky, Parmesan cheese-tastic Alfredo sauce and tender rattlesnake breast.

I caught this morning morning's minion,
kingdom of daylight's dauphin,
dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air,
and striding High there,
how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy!
then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend:
the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind.
My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird,
– the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Following which, the gathered locals provided their thoughts:

Dick J:  I thought it was well written.  A good job of describing the locals.  I will pass this book along to my nephew with a note:  "This will introduce you to New Mexico."  A- however I do not have a desire to read more of Bodio's work.

Bob S:  I enjoyed the book.  Well situated to convince us that maybe we could write our own history.  This was an anecdotal memoir.  Bodio has skill as a writer, and demonstrates it in terms of intimacy and anecdotal accuracy.  This seemed much more accessible, and the author followed the first rule of writing:  Write of what you know.  B

Rob E:  I agree with Jack's comments. This is a story about two remarkable people who found their querencia (Spanish for a special refuge -- "that little, unspecified area in life's arena where one feels safe, serene," from a quote by William Buckley) in Magdalena, New Mexico. This week marks my 50th year as a resident of NM and I can feel the love for NM - the land and the people - all through this book. First, Bodio's description of the drive from Socorro to Magdalena on their first trip. I've driven that route several times and it is a dramatic climb from the Rio Grande to high country plains. Then, later, as they return from a trip east and then, near the Texas state line, the flat agricultural, windmill country gives way to a vast expanse of mesas, arroyos, and distant mountains. Bodio writes, "though we were still seven hours from Magdalena, we drove to Tucumcari through beery tears of joy." I always get a little thrill - no beer - making that transit, and now it will be even more special.

Bodio's writing style is very inviting and natural. It's conversational. You can envision him in his favorite Magdalena bar, telling stories about Betsy's and his latest adventures. You don't have to be a naturalist, a hunter, a dog lover, a falconer, ... , or whatever to enjoy this book. You will enjoy learning about these endeavors.

I usually try to avoid book cover blurbs, but this one really summarizes my impression: Learn to live. Learn to love. Read this book. (Rick Bass - author, "Why I Hunt")   A

Mike B:  This was a blend of two Love Stories:  Love of New Mexico and Love of Betsy.  I found myself with renewed pride in my adopted state - only by grace of the US Air Force did I come to this beautiful environs in May of 1965, returning to stay in July 1979.  I gloried in Betsy reciting Gerard Hopkins "The Windhover" with a grin for its sheer appropriateness and I cried when Betsy died.  Some of the best writing we have experienced in a long time.  A

and from well outside the Plains of San Augustin:

Dear Rob, I am so sorry I will miss the discussion at your house on Thursday. We will be on the Oregon coast with two of our granddaughters, enjoying some time alone with them before they both go back to school.

I thoroughly enjoyed Querencia. I fell in love with New Mexico all over again while reading Bodio's vivid descriptions of the land and people of west central New Mexico. Although I have visited that part of our state a number of times, the details of the landscape and life style Bodio shared aroused my interest in the area again and a desire to check out some of the local haunts in Magdalena and Quemado at the very least. As a former hunter and gun owner, I found his accounts of hunting particularly entertaining. I can certainly relate to his experience dove hunting--I frequently returned home empty-handed, even though I had used up a whole box of shells. Thinking back on our first year in New Mexico (having moved here from Massachusetts), I could also relate to his early experiences with the locals, especially Chubby and his story about his dad "cheering cheap."

I found Bodio's writing style as engaging as the story, although I had to keep a dictionary handy for all the biological terms and dog breed names. I saw no foreshadowing of the tragedy related in the last ten pages. It came quickly, but I thought he handled it beautifully. By devoting 95% of his memoir to his life together with Betsy he was able to reinforce his love for her and the value of the time they spent together.

Thank you for introducing me to Stephen Bodio. I do not read many memoirs, but I will recommend this one to all my friends. A

    -  Jack

I liked the descriptions and the writing; I did not care for the people.  B+

    -  Tom G.

Hola Mike..On road Re Bodio soiree..Stephen Bodio is a true renaissance Man..Would be boffo member Edward Abbey coterie..Dazzling description of New Mexico flora/fauna...He'd put feet on my coffee table and dialogue 'til dawn..Could be [honorary] LTBC member..   A-..

    -  Keith G.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Chi! Chi! Chi!  Le! Le! Le!  mineros de Chile!  
What a miraculous gathering! After years of neglected responsibilities and lost souls, all twelve of us came together and re-appeared Last Thursday above ground in the far Sandia Heights, and related our own private and personal stories of redemption and deliverance: one of us worked for 8 hours straight as an 18-year-old skinny kid in a horizontal Mormon coal mine; one of us hiked the dreaded Atacama Desert following a 40- year rain and emerged into a star-filled night with only a backpack, one son, and a love of Kafka; one of us was dropped off in the Canadian Northwest with a hungry companion, disappearing rations, and a missing seaplane; and several of us drank bad Chilean wine and never complained, not even once.... 
Their lawyer spoke first:

Bob Simon:  A work of puffery, much to do about nothing.  There was no moral.  All ended up almost where they began.  I wasn't attracted to the plot.  I give it a B-

Rob Easterling:  Compared to other heroic books, the quality was less than others.  The tedious girlfriend stories were less than captivating.  I liked the pastor who offered hope.  I give it a B.  

Rob Bousek:  It held my attention.  I liked learning the mining information which was interesting.  It dragged some.  A-

Bob Woods:  B+  the story was filtered through the author; a remarkable work.

Mike B:  I appreciated the background the author provided on this miserable desert area, to include Darwin "hopping off the Beagle."  The author did an admirable job of introducing the miners, making several of them  (e.g., Mario Sepulveda) memorable and helping th reader to recall as the calendar moved onward:  Now which one was that?  I don't think it is fair to compare this story to Shackleton's or Citizen Soldiers as these guys were going to work and found themselves unexpectedly thrown into survival mode; in the other stories the men were geared for survival going in.  I was fascinated by what would happen next and appreciated what the author did with the story, especially the first half the book which was 19 days of pure survival.  The author did not lionize his miners.  A-

Keith Gilbert:  33 men thrown into high drama.  Cheap psychological drama:  In any such crisis situation. expect 1/3 to do nothing, 1/3 to demonstrate flight or fight, 1/3 to get into a corner and figure out the best we can do.  Two forces come into play:  fear and greed.  Fear:  the first 20 days;  then greed slowly crept in after 20 days.  These are the two great forces in the world.  C+

Dick J:  Hillbilly Elegy was great in that he liked this; this was just OK; a good book but not great.  B+

Jack Ferrell:  I liked the Rilke poem he started the book with.  My comments are between Rob and Ron:  I learned a lot from reading of the miners, a great deal about mining.  I found it difficult to digest.  B-

Dick Arms:  I appreciated the craftsmanship.  He did a good job with what he had to work with:  33 people, all had to get into the book, as well as lots of stories.  A-

Charlie:  He did OK with the material.  A story of ordinary people who faced adversity and did about as well as one would think.  B-

Tom G:  Good book but not as good as Ghost Soliders. The drilling and the mining stuff was interesting as well as the extraction/rescue efforts.  B

Ken G:  I learned a lot about mining.  Too many characters.  Knowing the ending made reading it somewhat less appealing.  Tedious.  B+

No somos los mejores hombres.