There is no friend as loyal a book.
— Ernest Hemingway
Outside of a dog, there’s no friend like a book.
Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.
— Groucho Marx
Winter days are short and the evenings long. Here in the high desert country of New Mexico, it’s bitterly cold. Snow is predicted, temperatures below twenty degrees. The weather tells me to relax by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book. I’ve neglected a multitude of quotidian household chores to delve into some waiting volumes. Lately, I’ve decided that chores can wait. Below, a few books that turned me into a couch potato.
Taking Flight with Luanne Castle
Luanne Castle’s newest poetry collection is titled Rooted and Winged. I was thrilled to receive this book in the mail, as I’d long anticipated its publication. A thoroughly rewarding read: Many gems embedded in this slim volume! Castle’s view of the world touched and inspired me. I relished her metaphors and descriptions, along with insights that seem to rise from her innermost being. With keen eyes and incisive commentary, she travels from her past, to possible futures, from interiors to the wilds of nature.
In “Tuesday Afternoon at Magpie’s Grill,” Castle writes “No matter what I notice, no matter what I record, I will never capture the ease of wind-filled wings, tail feathers a translucent backlit fan…” Actually, the poet accomplishes what she says she cannot, capturing the ease of wings. With grace and clarity, she creates such lines as “I’m trying, really trying hard to form a meditation on plants…My rosemary bush might do the trick, with its strong scent and evergreen resilience.”
Being There with Tommy Orange
Returning to Santa Fe Indian School after thirty-five years, I sat expectantly in the audience. We waited for the appearance of Tommy Orange. As we sat in the packed auditorium, I reminisced. In the late 1980s, I had been a language arts teacher at this school. I’d mentored ninth graders and juniors from New Mexico’s eight northern pueblos. My 2017 novel, All the Wrong Places, was set in a fictitious school based on Santa Fe Indian School. Having read Orange’s debut novel as part of a community read sponsored by our local library, I was eager to hear what this Arapahoe and Cheyenne author would say. Two easy chairs were soon occupied by Orange and Antonia Gonzales, a Native American radio commentator/interviewer. Orange told about his discovery of books and reading, well after his formal education ended. He worked in a bookstore, an experience that triggered a reading and writing breakthrough.
There There, Orange’s debut novel, depicts 12 young Native Americans all going to attend the Big Oakland Powwow. The backstories of these attendees are related, most in first person narratives. There are many interconnections, which also come to light. All arrive at the Big Oakland PowWow. The robbery of a large bag of gift cards is planned. Events spiral out of control, and most of the young people are killed. The stories themselves and the tragic finale stayed with this bibliophile a long time. Sad, haunting, and well worth the read.
Camping out with Nancy DeYoung
The Girl in the Tent ~ Memoir from the Road lives up to its title. Especially to fans of Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland, this is a terrific read. Inspired by her lifetime love of tenting and a desire to see the country, DeYoung embarked on nine months of a nomadic life. The author invites the reader along. She chronicles her adventures in a friendly style, including details and humor. Her chapters are illustrated with photos and drawings. I found the Route 66 experiences particularly fascinating: roadside signs and the importance of the route during dustbowl days from the 1930s. Her takeaway: “Get your kicks on Route 66.”
Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on the writing, hiking and the outdoors, Santa Fe life, and the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Check out her newest novel The Hand of Ganesh. Follow adoptees Clara Jordan and Dottie Benet in their quest to find Dottie’s birthparents. Order today from Amazon or www.pocolpress.com. And thanks for reading!
Thank you so much for the wonderful review, Elaine! These other books sound good!
Great column today Elaine! I loved THERE, THERE when I read it a couple years ago and will look into the other books you cite.
Thanks so much, Sarlene. I really appreciate your comments.
Stay tune for more book commentaries, as lately I’ve found some great reads.