Listen in anytime TO THE "MARFA MONDAYS" PODCASTS:

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Claudio Saunt's WEST OF THE REVOLUTION

In his spendid and thoroughly original West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, historian Claudio Saunt does not get into Texas history (there is a lengthy chapter on an expedition out of New Mexico, however), but his book is nonetheless vital (and astonishing and entertaining) reading for anyone who would attempt to understand Texas. My review is now live at Literal magazine here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Notes on Tom Lea and his Epic Western, THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY

Over on my main blog, which posts every Monday, some notes on the great artist's novel of El Paso, that is, Tom Lea's The Wonderful Country.

The podcast series, after numerous elephantine interruptions, will resume shortly. Listen in anytime to the 20 podcasts that have been posted so far. Four more to go. Next up with be a visit to Bracketville.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

MARFA FOR THE PERPLEXED by Lonn Taylor, Illustrated by Avram Dumitrescu

This is a mirror post from my main blog, Madam Mayo.

If you have any interest in Marfa, grab this book, and if you have never heard of Marfa, grab this book and you will be fascinated! I have yet to grab it myself, for it is hot off the presses from the Marfa Book Company, but I have already read most of it, as I have been an avid and long-time reader of historian Lonn Taylor's "Rambling Boy" columns, many about Marfa and its denizens, for the Big Bend Sentinel.

> Taylor also reads his columns for NPR here.

Taylor is a deeply knowledgable historian-- he made a distinguished career at the Smithsonian Institution before retiring to Far West Texas-- and a most elegant writer, ever curious and clear-eyed, and one--how rare this is!-- with a gentlemanly heart bigger than the world.

As for artist Avram Dumitrescu, two of his wild-eyed chicken paintings, red-white-and-blue like the Lone Star State's flag, are hanging on the wall in my Texas Bibliothek, exuding their magic "dino energy"! Viva!

From the catalog copy:

Marfa for the Perplexed, by Lonn Taylor, is a collection of 60 essays about people and places in and around Marfa, Texas. Due to the work there of the minimalist artist Donald Judd between 1972 and his death in 1994, Marfa (population 2,000), located 200 miles from the nearest commercial airport in Texas’s isolated Big Bend region, has become an international art center and, more recently, a hip tourist destination. Marfa for the Perplexed reveals that Marfa and the surrounding country has always been a place of refuge for eccentrics and individualists, many of whom you will meet in the book’s pages. It exposes the rich mix of cultures that underlies the current Marfa art scene - the real Marfa beyond the buzz.
Marfa for the Perplexed is illustrated by Alpine, Texas artist Avram Dumitrescu. The foreword is by Marfa’s Sterry Butcher, a frequent contributor to Texas Monthly and other publications. 


I am proud to say that Taylor and Dumitrescu both granted me interviews (Taylor here, in 2015, and Dumitrescu here in 2012) for my Marfa Mondays Podcasting Project, which is apropos of my book in-progress-- despite the title of the podcast series, my book covers not only Marfa but the wider Big Bend / Trans-Pecos region, that is to say, Far West Texas.

Lonn Taylor and Avram Dumitrescu talk about their book for Marfa Public Radio

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

Thursday, February 8, 2018

On Organizing (and Twice Moving) the Texas Bibliothek

[ The Texas Bibliothek, Ready to Ship.
Yes, it is big. Yes, I devour books like a ravenous owl.
Yes, this is my process.
I accumulated similar-sized working libraries
in writing some of my other books, e.g.,
Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California (2002);
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (2009); and
Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution (2014). ]

File this post under Future Reminder to Take My Own Advice, and if some or all of these ideas also work for you, gentle reader, verily I say unto you: Wunderbar!

Late last September, having finally rearranged and set up my working library in my new office in Mexico City-- the work in question being a book on Far West Texas-- I had to pack it all back up again and ship it across the Atlantic. (Why? Well, that story would make an epic novel I'm not going to write).

Now that I've got my Texas books resettled on their second set of new shelves in less than six months, I'm ready to take on 2018! But whew, I've got biceps after this job for a Hercules. The thirty-eight boxes of books comprising what I now call the Texas Bibliothek-- I have landed in German-speaking Switzerland-- arrived in mid-January. And a couple weeks later, every tome and paperback and pamphlet and back-issue of Cenizo Journal is in place, and I can carry my bike over head! I could scoop up and toss dessicated Christmas trees, small donkeys and their Schmutzlis out windows, too, should I take a notion!... ... Continue reading this post over at my main blog, "Madam Mayo"

Friday, November 3, 2017

Notes on John Bigelow, Jr., Lieutenant in the Tenth Cavalry

Because of multiple household moves this year I am behind schedule with the podcasts and the book project, but it does march on. In the meantime, here is a post over on my main blog, Madam Mayo, about John Bigelow, Jr., an officer in the Tenth Cavalry and a person, as I will argue, of far more importance than has been previously recognized. He will appear in my book, and also in a paper I will be presenting at this month's Center fo Big Bend Studies Conference at Sul Ross State University.

(Stay tuned for podcast 21 on the Seminole Scouts, podcast 22 on Sanderson, 23 an interview with archaeologist Andy Cloud, and 24 on the Blue Lady, Maria de Agreda-- meanwhile, as always, I invite you to listen in any time to the 20 podcasts posted to date.)

NOTES ON JOHN BIGELOW, JR. AND "GARRISON TANGLES IN THE FRIENDLESS TENTH: THE JOURNAL OF FIRST LIEUTENANT JOHN BIGELOW, FORT DAVIS, TEXAS"

As those of you who follow this blog well know, I live in Mexico City and have been at work on a book about the Trans-Pecos (that, is Far West Texas) for more than a spell. Books on the Trans-Pecos are sparse on the ground south of the border, so when I travel to Texas I always try to scour a bookshop or three. Thus have I accumulated a working library, including not a few rare and unusual books. 

For this sort of project, archival research is also important to do-- and I have done some-- but it can be woefully expensive to travel to and spend time working through archives. So whenever an historian has taken the trouble to transcribe and publish anything relevant from any archive of interest to me, I am triply grateful for such a find.

One example is the work by Douglas C. McChristian, a retired research historian for the National Park Service: "Garrison Tangles in the Friendless Tenth: The Journal of First Lieutenant John Bigelow, Jr, Fort Davis, Texas," published as a chapbook of about 60 pages by J.M. Carroll & Co in 1985. The copy I found is in excellent condition with, halleluja, a mylar cover and autographed by the editor.

Why is this excerpt from Lieutenant Bigelow's diary, from 1884-1885 in Fort Davis, Texas, so interesting and important?

>> CONTINUE READING