"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Fiction is more real..."

So wrote Tony Hillerman in his memoir Seldom Disappointed, which I recently finished, collecting a signed first addition on abe.com, to go with the collection I have of almost all his works set in my beloved New Mexico and Southwest
Hillerman's http://harpercollins.com/authors/4488/Tony_Hillerman/index.aspx
been dead more than 10 years now, and I'm not sure how I missed reading this, except it was prompted by two friends' recently published novels that got me out of my reading slump at the end of the year.
How many books do you read and think, "Joe (or whoever) needs to read this"?
Seldom Disappointed is that kind of book, except I know of three readers who will devour it. First section of the book, growing up in Depression Oklahoma, will captivate my father-in-law Jay Henry, who grew up not too far from Hillerman's home. The section on being an infantryman in WWII is perfect for my friend Jim Baker, retired UCO history prof and expert in WWII. Third section deals with Hillerman's life as a journalist, starting here in Oklahoma, mentioning people I know including Carter Bradley, Mary Goddard and Howard Wilson and others, lambasting higher education and more. I'm buying a copy for Ben Blackstock, and one for Baker. Jay can borrow my copy.  Fourth part is about his fiction writing. As a result, I've purchased his only novel I hadn't read, Finding Moon, about Vietnam, and he lavishes praise on it as a favorite.

Back to the fiction. You only have to read Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath to know that. My Okie friends' novels, have so much reality in them they demand  your attention, more than just that they're largely set in Oklahoma and you can identify so closely with the landscapes.
I finished this week the works of two friends-- Kent Anderson's Cold Glory http://bkentanderson.com/books/cold-glory/and M. Scott Carter's Stealing Kevin's Heart. http://www.mscottcarter.com/ Kent grabs your attention as an Okie, with suspense and great detail about Oklahoma. I've got to get back to Fort Washita and see that Confederate cemetery. And his narrative of raising an autistic son is as powerful as his novel. Scott's book is tense--the kind that makes you want to not turn the page, but then have to. And how he gets inside a teenager's mind is astounding. His descriptions of Stillwater put you there. Both books can make you cry and laugh.
The other book, The Paris Correspondent, by Alan S. Cowell, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Cowellshows the reality of past and present journalism--journalism when it was alive and full of characters, and today, amid corporate layoffs and cookie-cutter blandness. Shades of A Moveable Feast. Thanks to discovering this new author at Full Circle, I see he's written more such fiction, about journalism.
All of these books are the kind you want to underline passages in, because of the language craftsmanship and the healthy doses of reality. I restrained myself in Hillerman's book, since it is signed and first edition, and can't find the exact quote on reality in fiction, but if it's not exact, it is a paraphrase, and like fiction, a paraphrase of reality.

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