Sunday, September 3, 2006

Last spring, Okuni sent me a "Summer Reading Club Preparedness Kit" that included the memoir of a well known Southwestern author. I finally got around to reading that memoir. It is "Seldom Disappointed" by Tony Hillerman. (His website is
Anyway, I think Arthur Conan Doyle said happy lives are all the same. Tony HIllerman has had a pretty darn good life. I found the book amusing, and nostalgic even though Hillerman is the age of my parents. Reading about his childhood in Oklahoma was like visiting my parents' childhoods - though they grew up far from the Southwest. Hillerman had no idea he could even be a writer until after WWII, when a local reporter suggested he try writing after seeing some of the letters he sent home.

The parts of the book that I liked best were his stories of his childhood and his walk through what went before and during the writing of his most notable books - notable to him AND to his readers. I have read most of the novels that take place on the Navaho reservation and environs so it was fun to see how he pieced together his plots, characters and solutions.

Next, I was intrigued with how he described his war experience. It was pretty gritty. After college, he got work as a newspaperman in Texas and then in Santa Fe. The best part about those reminiscences was being introduced to characters he used in his books.

I don't read a lot of memoirs although there has been a recent upsurge in their publication and popularity. I'm a fiction woman, through and through. Fiction usually has a destination and purpose. Life - real life - sometimes meanders. This memoir wandered a bit. The one place Hillerman did not linger was in his family life. He talks briefly - one chapter I think - about the arrival of all six of his children, some adopted, some not. And he lets the reader know how things turned out for all six of them. He credits his wife Marie for several pivotal changes in their lives - like his decision to go to graduate school and his attempt to finally write his "dream" book, ("Finding Moon" - not a Navaho book but a good read with lots of action and some neat characters.) But we don't learn much about her life. This is HIS memoir after all and he's done so much in his life that he really did have to pick and choose what to put in.

Other memoirists have sad tales to tell ("Angela's Ashes", for instance) or challenges to overcome. It was great to read a book by a fantastic writer who has had a happy life and found himself "Seldom Disappointed".

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