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Reading in Placitas - Mary's Picks
All of us who live in the Southwest know that here the words grandeur and mystery are not vague concepts but simple realities. Most writers who attempt to convey the Southwest such as Hillerman or Powell do a good to great job in factual description or characterization but when it comes to grandeur or mystery, in my opinion, they miss by a country mile. Craig Childs, however, hits the bull’s eye. I am both impressed and deeply envious of his ability to evoke these qualities in his writing. He is able to translate his individual experience into an accurate portrayal that conveys the awe.
Once friends lead me to a deep natural pool in a lava field. Yes, it was awesome. But, I couldn’t manage to find the words that recreated my awe. Craig Childs in Secret Knowledge of Water managed it page after page. If you love the Southwest, you will find his books marvelous.
I love science fiction. I especially love Canadian science fiction, which is much less constrained by the US fascination with violent entertainment. I was therefore delighted to encounter Robert Sawyer. His book Calculating God begins with the standard SF plot of an alien landing. Their first words are, "Take us to your paleontologist." I could not resist jumping into this wonderfully unusual tale. Given the hate-filled response of my fellow citizens to ěhumanî aliens it was very refreshing to sink into a story of unsuspicious acceptance of difference.
Sawyer’s alternate universe series about Neanderthals, however, explores this phenomenon of distrust for difference. That has been so encouraged in the US recently. This flexibility of thought seems to be consistent in Canadian SF where writers rarely write with same book over and over again like US writers so often do. It did not surprise me that the book by Sawyer that I like the least Flash Forward was the most popular here.
My other serious genre addiction is to mysteries, particularly Southwest mysteries with female protagonists. Local authors Aimee and David Thurlo have done a splendid job when they created Ella Clah their Navajo policewoman. David was born in Shiprock and graduated high school there. I lived in Farmington for a couple of years and find their depictions very accurate and deeply respectful of the differences embodied in the Navajo way. I really liked it when the fantastically talented computer geek is Navajo. The New Mexico couple (who live in Corrales) also created a very unusual good-guy Navajo vampire police officer that I actually find reasonable and engaging. This is not small accomplishment. Bravo Thurlos!
Our Placitas Book Clubs are very good at finding some of the best writing around and I would like to mention a few of their choices that I found stunningly good reading.
Finally some oldies but goodies you may have missed.