Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A couple more books to round out January

The first month of 2011 is over and I've averaged a book a day. And you know me, I have the spreadsheet to prove it. Here are a couple more capsules to round out the month.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryI am mostly a fiction person but have enjoyed a few non-fiction titles lately - the latest of the latlies being S C Gwynne's The Empire of the Summer Moon. It starts as a history of Quanah Parker but it so much more in depth and sweeping that that, encompassing not just the rise and demise of the Comanche Nation but all of the Plains Tribes, the influx-turned-invasion of the Europeans in America, horsemanship, scary empty fields, and, of course, syphilis.

Now, I have a history here. Parker's mother, the famous "White Squaw" Cynthia Ann Parker who was taken captive on a raid at Fort Parker when she was nine, is my great-great-great-great-great aunt. (Give or take a great.) (My mom or uncle could well pop in here to tell me this is entirely false, but it's what my child-self thinks she was told.) The tiny amount of Native American blood I have (1/16, IIRC) isn't Comanche, but I've always been interested in Comanche history. Part of my undergrad degree is a major in Native American Studies, so, there you go. I have a pretty high tolerance for a book with a blatant fascination for Quanah Parker and sympathies that don't exactly lie with the cold-hearted breasts of the Texas Rangers. So what I'm saying is, this book may not be for everyone. But I found it fascinating, intriguing, epic. It's definitely a book for me.

Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in ConfessionsAn entirely different read - but also compelling - is Which Brings Me to You by Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott, who team up to write a novel in confessional letters by a pair who chance into each other at a wedding and spend the next several months getting to know each other entirely via the USPS. As they detail the failed relationships of their past and barge into each other's presents - and futures? - I was as charmed by John and Jane as they were by each other. It's a quick read and a worthy one - witty, a little raunchy, thoughtful, fun. The epistolary form is hardly an easy or popular narrative technique, but Almond and Baggott work it well, individually and as a pair. Makes the whole paper and stamps way of communicating feel valid and intriguing.


  1. Mel,
    You're right about Cynthia Ann Parker (give or take a great) and I think you're also correct about our Native-American heritage.
    Your brother Mark has done more genealogy research, but http://boggythicket.blogspot.com/2010/11/choctaw-chickasaw-cherokee-etc.html explains, to some extent, our claim to be part Indian.

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Uncle Rob! It's quite the tangle, but fun to try to unwind....