Thursday, March 31, 2011

transitions and tony hillerman

I have given myself two weeks to do nothing but sleep, eat, read and write. Ten days in, three out of four isn't bad. The writing will come. It always comes. And until then, I will continue to refill the well. I have plenty of books to read for class, but have found myself more drawn to one of the Southwest's most beloved and well known novelist: Tony Hillerman. I'm not a huge fan of mysteries, but I love his books. The care he takes with cultures and characters. His spare, accessible style.

I love the idea of picking an author who speaks to you and reading everything they've written. I've done it only twice (JD Salinger and Herman Hesse) and have several others I'm working on (Natalie Goldberg, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan and Mark Salzman). But here, in this place, Hillerman begs to take precedence. And so I have started collecting his books as I find them in used bookstores (of which Santa Fe has many) -- 18 Leaphorn & Chee mysteries, 4 other novels (including two for children),  12 works of non-fiction, and 5 books of photography. Five of his novels were made into films.

I've heard that Tony Hillerman considered Finding Moon his favorite and best book and it was definitely good, but for me it lacked the very things that I love so much about his Leaphorn & Chee mysteries -- his deep and compelling insights into the land and his characters. In those books it's like traveling with an anthropologist, not simply hearing a story about a friend's adventures. In Finding Moon, the primary character's growth (Moon Mathiason) was more about him realizing what everyone else knew about him -- it wasn't so much about change or growth as it was about accepting who he already was, which makes the title very apt, but the story slightly less engaging.

As always Hillerman's descriptions of the locations were gorgeous and his story had the ending the reader hopes for. But I am looking forward to getting back to the books that split open the soul of the southwest and the people who live here. I just need to find a copy of the first in the series: The Blessing Way. Because as with most series books, it's always best to start from the beginning.

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