Monday, July 10, 2017

De Witt Clinton Boutelle

Untitled (Hudson River Landscape with Indian) 1848
De Witt Clinton Boutelle
Chrysler Museum of Art
Apart from trying to finish my book on Far West Texas and the overdue prologue for a friend's most unusual and outstanding book and moving house (half the books now in boxes, my train of thoughts surely must be bubble-wrapped into one or three of them) and see about querying publishers for various projects and translations, and trying also (also!) to not fall too woefully behind with email (... am trying to take my own advice...), this week I got wrapped up with some thunderous family news... precisely, of the existence of De Witt Clinton Boutelle (1820 - 1884), a great great great uncle who was, lo and behold, a remarkably talented painter of the Hudson River School. My sister, thanks to Google, found his grave. And from there it was all open sesame.

> More about the Hudson River Landscape with Indian of 1848 in the Chrysler Museum.

> Here is De Witt Clinton Boutelle's "Indian Surveying a Landscape" 1855, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (I note that it was purchased from a private collection in Springfield MA.)

> And here is Boutelle's 1873 portrait of Asa Packer.

> And a bunch more of Boutelle's landscapes at artnet.

> Even more at https://americangallery19th.wordpress.com/category/boutelle-dewitt-c/ .

> And a note on Boutelle's "Catskills Mountain House" of 1845.


# # #


> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.




Monday, June 26, 2017

"Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" A Longform Essay About the Mexican Literary Landscape and the Power of the Book

Get this essay about the Mexican literary landscape
 and the power of the book in KINDLE
My extra-crunchy long essay on the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book is now available in Kindle.

Featured on the cover are my writing assistants, Uliberto Quetzalpugtl (aka Uls) and Washingtoniana Quetzalpugalotl (aka La Wash), both thinking profound thoughts... probably about the neighbor's cat. (As for books, they go for the corners.)

If you have been following my blog (in which case, bless you), you might be wondering, what in Timbuktu does this long essay on the Mexican literary landscape have to do with my current work in-progress on Far West Texas? Plenty, actually, starting with Cabeza de Vaca's gobsmackingly bizarre Informe. 

One of the several reasons I wrote this essay was to get my mind around the literary nuns of the baroque period in Mexico, the prime and cherished example is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Another literary nun not mentioned in this essay, but who will appear in my book on Far West Texas, is María de Agreda, the Blue Lady. Much more about María de Agreda and her exterioridades anon.

Above all, I wrote "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" for U.S. friends and colleagues who want to get past the heavily-retailed clichés about Mexico. This essay is at once my love letter to Mexico and a distillation of all that I have come to understand after 30 years of living here and over two decades of writing about Mexico and translating Mexican literature. I sincerely hope it will invite you to consider our southern neighbor in new ways and so, consider our own republic in new ways as well.

Read some excerpts from "Dispatch from the Sister Republic":

Lord Kingsborough's Antiquities of Mexico

What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

> A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América, Mexico City

>> Get "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" in in Kindle here.<<



#   #   #

Kindle edition

Also in the Kindle store you will find my memoir of yore, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. Available as always in Kindle from Dancing Chiva, it will be for free in the Kindle storeyes, freefor two days later this month, July 22 and 23. So, I invite you to note those free days in your calendar, or shell out the clams. Or not. Or whatever. I invite you to read more about this book, reviews, and excerpts here. (The original hardcover was published by the University of Utah Press and the still in-print paperback is available from Milkweed Editions and all the usual online and independent booksellers.)



#   #   #


> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.





Recent and Current Reading: Cather, Bogard, Kunstler, Padilla, Abbey

The Professor's House
by Willa Cather
In one of the strangest, most elegant and powerful novels I have ever read, Cather combs apart the strands of the very DNA of North America.


by Paul Bogard
If you still want to vacation in Las Vegas after reading this...

by James Howard Kunstler
For those who have not yet drunk the Kool-Aid of Geewhizdomerie. Kunstler, maestro of colorful metaphors and hilarious diction drops, is always a wicked pleasure to read. 

The Daring Flight of My Pen: Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá's Historia de la Nueva México, 1610
By Genaro M. Padilla
At once a brilliant work of scholarship and a powerful personal essay, The Daring Flight of My Pen is vital reading for anyone anywhere who would attempt to understand North American history. 

Edited By James R. Hepworth and Gregory McNamee
One cannot go far into reading about the American West without encountering Edward Abbey and, in particular, his iconic Desert Solitaire. This eclectic collection of essays and interviews is like an adventure in the fun house of Edward Abbey's mind.

For those of you who follow this blog: As you might guess from this reading list I am at work on the book about Far West Texas. Stay tuned for podcast #21; I really am going to post it soon. In the meantime, I welcome you to listen in to the other 20 podcasts here.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.










Monday, June 19, 2017

Tulpa Max or, Notes on the Afterlife of a Resurrection (On the 150th Anniversary of the Execution of Maximilian von Habsburg)

Letras Libres, one of Mexico's finest magazines, has a special section in this month's issue which includes, I am delighted to report, my own essay on Maximilian von Habsbug, "Tulpa Max. La vida después de una resurrección".  ("Tulpa Max or, The Afterlife of a Resurrection.") 

It's a riff on writing historical fiction-- and my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), which was beautifully translated by Mexican writer Agustín Cadena as El último principe del Imperio mexicano (Random House Mondadori-Grijalbo, 2010). I am hoping my Spanish has continued some progress up the steep hill toward matching my English: I dared to translate this essay for Letras Libres myself.

The novel, by the way, is not about Maximilian per se, but rather the little half-American prince, Agustín de Iturbide y Green, whom Maximilian brought into his court (true story), much to the child's parents' consternation.

The English version of this essay is forthcoming in the summer issue of Catamaran Literary Review, and once that's out I will be sure to post it here.

> Read the essay online here.

For the occasion, a few links about Maximilian:

> On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfühlung

> Podcast of the book's presentation at the Library of Congress

> A Conversation with M.M. McAllen About Her Book, Maximilian and Carlota

> Q & A with Mexican historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski About Santiago Rebull, Maximilian's Court Painter-- Later Diego River's Professor

> Oodles more at my novel's webpage, on the Maximilian and Carlota Blog, and the research page Maximilian von Mexiko


> Your comments are always most welcome. Write to me here.





Monday, June 12, 2017

Daniel Yergin's THE PRIZE, M. King Hubbert, Medieval Smokestacks & Etc. (Plus Cyberflanerie)

Finally I finished reading Daniel Yergin's brilliant and necessary The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, a doorstopper of a tome which deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1992. I sincerely wish I had read it decades sooner. It rewired my thinking about World War II, among multitudinous other things. What prompted me to pick it up is that for the book I am writing about Far West Texas I needed a broader historical perspective for the oil industry in the Permian Basin. One oilman mentioned in The Prize whom I'll be writing about is pioneer geologist and philanthropist Wallace E. Pratt... More about him anon. 

Next on my reading list: Mason Inman's new book about M. King Hubbert, The Oracle of Oil: A Maverick Geologist's Quest for a Sustainable Future

> M. King Hubbert's 1989 obituary in the New York Times

> A lengthy and fascinating memorial to M. King Hubbert in The Geological Society of America (PDF).

An academic article that represents a parting of the seas.

An almost unknown history well worth knowing.

# # #

A few more fascinating items I've happened upon in recent surfaris:

Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture
Strange and powerful, a highly recommended read. (But I still think I must have stepped into some parallel universe, this one where Donald Tump is President and Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.... I am not comparing Dylan to Trump, however. And, apropos of that lecture, I will say that I'm a serious fan of Buddy Holly.) 

On Jeffrey Mishlove's "New Thinking Allowed": 
Psychedelic Experience with Stanley Krippner
I am not planning on seeking out any psychedelic experiences myself; current events seem plenty psychedelic to me. But I do find it fascinating to listen to other people's experiences and to learn some of the cultural history. For psychonauterie and psychedelia, the very articulate and matter-of-fact Professor Krippner is the elder guru. 
Check out this post on the blog of Jeff Peachy, blogging book conservator extraordinaire.

Another thoughtful post from Granola Shotgun. 

And finally, a couple of especially interesting pieces both in the New York Times:
The Hidden Radicalism of Southern Food by John T. Edge
Is there an ecological unconscious? by Daniel B. Smith

Monday, June 05, 2017

Five Video Poems to Watch

Once in a chartreuse moon I concoct a little video... (my latest is this one about the controversial statue at the El Paso airport). Mainly I have made what I call "mini-clips" to illustrate my travel writing, which are really more like GIFs-- and, in fact, I have started making the occasional GIF. So in the jiggy flow of things, I have become intrigued by video poetry...

Herewith a few examples gleaned from my recent Internet surfaris:


Sor Juana's "Green Enchantment" Video by Dave Bonta





Ann Cefola's "Velocity"




Sandra Beasley's "Inner Flamingo"





Laurie Anderson's poem "Walking and Falling" as "Step" Filmed by Pascal Rekort





> See Dave Bonta's Moving Poems website and Bonta's excellent 2012 AWP talk, "Video Poetry: What Is it? Who Makes It? And Why?"

> See also Bonta's post from 2014, "Poetry Videos on the Web: Some Preliminary Observations." 

> You can watch some of Bonta's own video poems here.


> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.





Monday, May 29, 2017

"For the Vivid Dreamer": Notes from my Workshop on Nature and Travel Writing in the Glorious Guadalupe Mountains National Park

El Capitan from the Pine Springs Station,
Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
This past weekend for my workshops as artist-in-residence at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park I offered this handout which includes three brief, fun, easy-peasy and yet powerfully effective exercises to rev up your writerly perceptions.

We can think of the best writing about nature and travel, whether fiction or nonfiction, as instructions for the reader to form in his or her mind a "vivid dream," an experience of the world. How do we, whether as readers, or as any human being (say, folding laundry or maybe digging for worms with a stick), experience anything? Of course, we experience the world through our bodies, that is to say, through our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing-- and I would add a "gut" or intuitive sense as well... CONTINUE READING

P.S. Loads more resources for writers on my workshop page.

> Some of my travel writing is here, here, and here.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.







Monday, May 22, 2017

Q & A with Mary S. Black About Her New Book, "From the Frio to Del Rio"

Amazon or
IndieBound
One of my very favorite places not just in Texas but in the galaxy is the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, so I was delighted to see that Texas A & M Press has published Mary S. Black's splendid and much-needed guidebook, From the Frio to Del Rio: Travel Guide to the Western Hill Country and Lower Pecos Canyonlands

From the catalog:
"Each year, more than two million visitors enjoy the attractions of the Western Hill Country, with Uvalde as its portal, and the lower Pecos River canyonlands, which stretch roughly along US 90 from Brackettville, through Del Rio, and on to the west. Amistad National Recreation Area, the Judge Roy Bean Visitors’ Center and Botanical Garden, Seminole Canyon State Park, and the Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde, along with ghost towns, ancient rock art, sweeping vistas, and unique flora and fauna, are just a few of the features that make this distinctive section of the Lone Star State an enticing destination.
"Now, veteran writer, blogger, and educator Mary S. Black serves up the best of this region’s special adventures and secret treasures. From the Frio to Del Rio is chock-full of helpful maps, colorful photography, and tips on where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. In addition there are details for 10 scenic routes, 3 historic forts and 7 state parks and other recreation areas."

Herewith an interview with the author:

Mary S. Black
Author of Peyote Fire
and
From the Frio to Del Rio
C.M. MAYO: What inspired you to write this book? 

MARY S. BLACK: I think what inspired me was the land itself, and the history. The Lower Pecos Canyonlands are not well known by most people, but the landscape is incredibly majestic and unexpected. You can be driving 70 miles per hour down the highway through the desert, when, wham, a huge canyon veers off to the left like a sudden tear in the earth. 

These canyons were inhabited by human beings for thousands of years. They lived off the land and made paintings on the canyon walls that illustrate their gods and belief systems. Over 300 of these paintings still exist, and you can visit some of them. They are a treasure of human culture, and I hope more people will learn to value them as something important for us to save. The people who settled this area historically were a diverse bunch with a lot of gumption. Do people know that word anymore? I guess in modern language, we might say they had a lot of guts. 

C.M. MAYO: In your view, what is the most underrated place in this region?  

Las Moras Springs
MARY S. BLACK: If I have to pick only one, I’ll say Las Moras Springs Pool at Ft. Clark in Brackettville.  I’m always looking for great swimming holes. Las Moras Springs Pool is the third largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas. Crystal clear water at a year-round temperature of about 70 degrees comes into the pool from a strongly flowing spring, yet very few people swim there because they don’t know how to get access. 

The pool is located on Ft. Clark, and old U.S. Army fort originally built in 1849. You can get a day-pass for $5.00 at the guard house to enter the fort, enjoy the pool or play golf on either of two gold courses, and look at all the old stone buildings that remain from when the place was an active Army fort. There is also a really interesting museum there that is open on Saturdays.

C.M. MAYO: What is your favorite place? 

MARY S. BLACK: Hands down, the White Shaman Preserve. The best studied of all the ancient murals is located there.  This is a polychrome painting about 25 feet long and 13 feet high done on a rock wall overlooking the Pecos River. This painting tells a story about creation and how the sun was born, according to Dr. Carolyn Boyd. You can visit the preserve on Saturdays at noon if you make a reservation online through the Witte Museum.  Tours are two-three hours long, and require a fairly strenuous hike down a canyon to a rockshelter, then back up.  But to be up there, to see the mural up close and in person, to look out over the river and imagine the people who made this painting, can change your whole perspective. It’s that powerful. 

C.M. MAYO: Your favorite seasonal or annual event? 

MARY S. BLACK: I have two: autumn color near Lost Maples State Natural Area near Vanderpool, and tubing in the cold Frio river in summer. Both are unique experiences in Texas and shouldn’t be missed. An isolated stand of bigtooth maple turns orange and red in Sabinal Canyon in late November. And swimming in the Frio at Garner State Park is like heaven on a hot day. 

C.M. MAYO: What surprised you in researching this book? 

MARY S. BLACK: How fascinating the area really is. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  The region has seven state parks and natural areas, nine ghost towns, three historic Army forts, and many scenic drives. But the coolest part was reading about all the crazy things that have happened there, like train robberies and early airplane adventures. And Indian battles. When settlers from the US and Mexico started coming in after the Civil War, the native Apaches and Comanches were fighting for their lives. And of course the U.S. Army was trying to drive them out. It gets complicated, but there were many interesting people involved in all this, like the Black Seminole Indian Scouts at Ft. Clark, and others. One of the first settlers in the Nueces River valley was a woman named Jerusha Sanchez, who came in the 1860s. Later a widow named Elizabeth Hill and her three sons also pioneered in the area. Blacks, women, immigrants from Italy, Mexico, Germany, and other places, and Native Americans made the history what it is. 

C.M. MAYO: You offer an excellent bibliography for further reading. If you could recommend only three of these books, which would they be?  

MARY S. BLACK: Hmm, they are so different, let me see.  First I think Carolyn Boyd’s new book, which is called simply The White Shaman Mural, just published by University of Texas Press in 2016.  She details her 25 years of research on the painting in this book and explains how she cracked the code on what it means, an amazing accomplishment.

Then I nominate Judge Roy Bean Country by Jack Skiles, published in 1996, which is a compilation of local stories of life in the Lower Pecos. The Skiles family has been ranching in the area for over 75 years and can tell stories about mountain lions and smugglers that will make you faint. 

Finally, one I found fascinating was The Newton Boys: Portrait of an Outlaw Gang by Willis and Joe Newton as told to Claude Stanush, published in 1994. It tells how they became train robbers and learned to blow bank safes with nitroglycerin, which they did in Texas and the Midwest all through the 1920s. By the time they were captured, they had stolen more money than all other outlaws at the time combined. 



> From the Frio to Del Rio is available from amazon.com or your independent bookseller.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.


P.S. As artist-in-residence I will be giving a free travel and nature writing workshop at the Guadalupe Mounatins National Park over this Memorial Day weekend, details to be announced shortly on my events page



(Marfa Mondays podcast with transcript)


My guest-blog for Mary S. Black:

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Glimpse of "México Profundo" in a Visit to La Santa Madero in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila

Having written a book about the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero--Mexico's "Apostle of Democracy"--I am often asked if I have visited his native town, Parras de la Fuente. As of two weeks ago, thanks to an invitation to give talk about my book there, I can now answer, with the easiest of shrugs, why, of course. 

An oasis of a mission-and-farm-town in the arid border state of Coahuila, Parras de la Fuente is one of Mexico's 111 officially-designated "pueblos mágicos," or "magical towns." Apart from its historical importance and its charming downtown, Parras de la Fuente's biggest draw is Casa Madero, the oldest winery in the Americas--at one time run by Francisco I. Madero.

 If you're interested in visiting Parras de la Fuente--and for anyone at all interested in Mexican history and culture I warmly recommend it--check out Tripadvisor for information galore. (If you read Spanish, there is a very informative article about the town in the magazine Mexico Desconocido.) I won't aim to cover the gamut here, just one of several worthy attractions, La Santa Madero.

View of La Santa Madero
from the parking lot
LA SANTA MADERO 

It's impossible to talk about Parras de la Fuente without making some reference to the Madero family. Not only was native-born son Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) the leader of the 1910 Revolution, but he served as president of Mexico from 1911 until his assassination in 1913. Moreover, there was his grandfather, industrialist Evaristo Madero (1828-1911), founder of a veritable dynasty. In many ways, Parras de la Fuente is, if you will excuse my anglosajonismo, Maderotown.

Speaking of looming, perched above the little town on a bulbous hulk of rock sits La Santa Madero.

Perhaps you wonder, is that a misspelling? (Shouldn't it be El Santo Madero?) Was there a Saint Madero? Or could this be a sanctuary of some sort donated by the Madero family?

La Santa Madero, it turns out, refers to the Holy Cross, a purported splinter of which is enshrined in the early 19th-century chapel at the top of that craggy overlook.

Ring-a-ling to Dr. Jung! In the Names Department, La Santo Madero overlooking "Maderotown," this is quite the bodacious synchronicity... And this does bring new texture to a quote in my book:

As even his great admirer, Isidro Favela put it, Madero was a Don Quixote with “the fury for freedom.” Others who loved him said Madero was “made of wood for the cross.”


Starting up the hill to La Santa Madero



About half way up... sun setting through a cloud
Parras de la Fuente below

Nearing the top, about to go around the curve...





Final staircase to the top...

Pug Puppy Alert!
c
Close up of pug puppy at La Santa Madero


This Chapel of the Holy Cross...
Alas, the chapel was locked.
But you can view photos of the interior on Tripadvisor

On the way back down the hill:
Sunset over Parras de la Fuente
from La Santa Madero

On the way down we passed a girl in a huge poppy-red quinceañera dress (15th birthday celebration) and her photographers-- probably brothers, cousins and friends. One of my companions on this hike, an eminent Mexican scholar, gravely remarked that with this--the girl in her fabulous dress, as much as La Santa Madero--we'd had a glimpse of México profundo.

More anon.

> The webpage for my book about Francisco I. Madero is here.

> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.