Books

W. David Laird's Picks

All Aboard: the Life and Work of Marjorie Reed
Two previous books about Reed concentrated on her paintings relating to the Butterfield Overland Stage and provided very little information about the artist. This volume gives us everything: detailed biographical information as well as commentary on her art interspersed among the reproductions of more than four hundred of her colorful paintings and drawings. This is a magnificent tribute to a southwestern artist who is not nearly as well-known as she should be.
All Aboard: the Life and Work of Marjorie Reed
Two previous books about Reed concentrated on her paintings relating to the Butterfield Overland Stage and provided very little information about the artist. This volume gives us everything: detailed biographical information as well as commentary on her art interspersed among the reproductions of more than four hundred of her colorful paintings and drawings. This is a magnificent tribute to a southwestern artist who is not nearly as well-known as she should be.
Into the Beautiful North: a Novel
In the village of Tres Camarones, somewhere near the southern border of the Mexican state of Sinaloa, 19-year old Nayeli suddenly realizes that all the men have “gone north” as her father did years before. Organizing a motley group composed of her two best female friends and an older, gay male chaperone, Nayeli leads her band just where the title says they should go: Into the Beautiful North. Funded by contributions from the village women, including the newly elected mayor, the first female to hold that position, they go in search of males to repopulate Tres Camarones, and Nayeli secretly wants to find that rascal, her father, who stopped sending money a long time back. A glorious piece of storytelling moved along by superb dialog. Urrea never misses a beat.
Land Arts of the American West
Impossible to adequately “review” in a few short sentences, what Taylor and Gilbert have done in this volume is document a multi-year creative experiment in both photos and words. The photos, about 200 of them and all in color, present the reader with such variety that it is often impossible to tell how they relate to the text, but each of them in some way can be related to earth/land. They range from the head and shoulders of a bearded man, who has had a mud bath, to a bearded man (not the same one) with his head and shoulders sticking up out of a perfectly round hole in the ground. Then there is the scene showing about 20 individuals walking single-file around the perimeter of one of the dishes in the Very Large Array! And, whoa, Wupatki, the potash evaporation “lakes” near Wendover, Bingham Canyon Mine, etc. Introductory “essays” for the six sections set the scene(s) and within each section are one or two analytical texts such as J. J. Brody’s look at Chaco Canyon and a bilingual interview with Hector Gallegos and Graciela Martinez de Gallegos titled “Pots, Cows, and Trains” (don’t forget that Native American pottery is just another form of earth/land).
Last Reader, The
Avoiding the now passe designation “magical realism” Toscana refers to his work as realismo desquiciado, which translates roughly as “unrestrained realism” but which means literally “unhinged realism”. In a very small northern Mexican village no rain has fallen in such a long time that all the wells are dry; all save one and in it the owner, Remigio, discovers one morning the body of a young girl. He thinks he will be blamed. Desperate, he turns to his father, Lucio, for advice. Lucio is the village librarian, a job for which he is no longer paid as there are no readers left in the village except himself. Filled with references to both classical and contemporary literature, Toscana’s spins out a tale that is simultaneously real and unhinged; a veritable tour de force.
Naked Rainbow and Other Stories, The = El Arco Iris Desnudo y Otros Cuentos
Garcia writes these simple tales in Spanish then translates them himself, which means, of course, that he is free to translate them to suit himself. However, he provides both a glossary and a section of idiomatic words and phrases with his translations for those of his readers, like me, whose ability to understand is based in only one of the two languages. The characters who populate these stories are the common folk of central New Mexico; earthy, uneducated, simple, sometimes greedy, and almost always wise. Their stories are often funny and always to the point.
Poetry of Remembrance, A: New and Rejected Works
Sometimes serious, sometimes humorous Romero’s “works” [sly humor in the subtitle; all the works are poetry and normally one says “new and SELECTED...”–did your eye skip that one?]. Wonderful, creative images are sprinkled throughout along with the humor; for example these lines from “Simple Math”: “I don’t know what today will bring tomorrow...what it may add or subtract...it is a process of trial and error and I’m known to leave a path like eraser grains on paper...”
Some of the Dead are Still Breathing: Living in the Future
These essays, seven of them, have subjects that range far outside the Southwest (would you believe, on a boat in the north Pacific looking for neon squid) but in many ways Bowden is never far from his Tucson home. His writing here, as always, sparkles with observations that the reader
sees, images that the reader understands, and attitudes that the reader feels. This, for example, from a chapter titled "Serpent" that is more or less about rattlesnakes: "I have noticed over the years that love of nature often leaves skid marks on the ground when it comes to snakes."
Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe
From earliest days (of photography, that is) through the booming railroad years to contemporary scenes (the magical, open-air opera, for example), this collection of images, beautifully reproduced, captures the essence of the oldest capitol city in the U.S., and the first U.S. city to be designated by UNESCO as a “Creative City”. Fine visual browse with excellent text(s).

About W. David Laird

W. David Laird is the former head of libraries at the University of Arizona. He owns Books West Southwest, an online and mail order book service. He was on the first Southwest Books of the Year panel in 1977; after a few years off for good behavior, he came back on in 2001.

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