Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xiv

Nineteenth-century psychologists spent massive amounts of time trying to understand acts of attention. This was the heyday of compulsory education and their interests were largely pedagogical as they designed ingenious experiments to measure...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

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Independence Day

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pp. 1-11

The window frame bulges with blue sky. I 'm on floor six, in a hotel called the De Luxe, in Cd. Juarez, in Mexico. Alone, a bit hung over from the night before, I've returned to a town I visited first some twenty-five years ago. A year ago nearly to the day, I shared this...

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Adaptations

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pp. 12-20

At the moment, Manastash Creek couldn't get any fuller. Cold, shallow, twisting over boulders and red grass, full of whitecaps clinging to dips, of sandbars dimpling it with eddies, the water's very little warmer than the snow it used to be, ten miles north, where it melted off the Cascade peaks we can see...

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Three Days in the Mexican Highlands

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pp. 21-28

The road is nothing but dust and braided ruts. Dodging arroyos and boulders, we drive between nopales ten feet high, their trunks eighteen inches through. Now we pass under stone portals, onto the grounds of what was once a hacienda, but now serves as a ranch for raising fighting bulls.

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The Republic of Boylston

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pp. 29-36

The Cascade mountain valley I live in lies bisected by a twentymile railroad embankment. Pasture and hay field alike bear that raised welt of engineering. No tracks, though, and no ties. The railroad tore them out the moment it discontinued service five, or was it six, years ago. An aerial view would show...

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Tombs

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pp. 37-47

Again and again the bus driver wipes his steering wheel with a rag. Centered above the windshield hangs a crucifix of bronze, sunlight through the trees glittering off the Lord's muscle definition. The pink beads and thin chain of a rosary hang wrapped around him. Tucked into the visor, directly...

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Burning What We Weave

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pp. 48-54

These mid-November weeks drain the last inches of color from the landscape. The Cascade mountain valley I live in slips below the fog or cloud cover that is going to shroud it for most of the next four months. Every once in awhile, the gloom lifts, the light comes back. But mainly we shiver...

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Borders

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pp. 55-69

With the signing in 1847 of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Rio Grande became the border between Texas and Mexico. And citizens of the town of Laredo turned into Texans. Shortly thereafter, one hundred or so families dismantled...

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Two Love Scenes in Homer

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pp. 70-77

The Iliad, we hear in the opening lines, rings with one man's anger. The slight of a moment—Agamemnon seizing the girl Achilleus was awarded—brings on the Akhaians week after week of slow-motion death. The wise and foolish alike, aglitter in armor and patronymics, the foolhardy and the...

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American Miracles

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pp. 78-82

Three days before his sixty-ninth birthday, at home in Camden, New Jersey, Walt Whitman was refusing dinner invitations. Three this week in fact. Tonight Horace Traubel had come by with news from the printer about November Boughs. Now the talk drifted toward the refusal of a mutual friend to pay his taxes.

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Where Pigs Can See the Wind

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pp. 83-91

I go for years without thinking about it. And then, for no apparent reason, I suddenly recall a belief common among Missouri hill folk when I was growing up. They used to say that a sound like that of glass breaking, or cloth tearing, presages a death in the family. I certainly don't believe...

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Finding Our Lives

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pp. 92-100

One February nearly ten years ago, I got invited to make a peyote pilgrimage. The Huichol Indians, of west central Mexico —with one of whom I was teaching at the time—maintain what many scholars call the most consistently pre-European world...

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Monument

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pp. 101-113

We drive for an hour with a black crystalline wall, two hundred water jiggles, wide, blue: Banks Lake lies tucked into what was once the biggest canyon of all. Grand Coulee, people called the below a wall 350 feet high, the concrete of it pressing the river intones, / was here when floods scoured channels and canyons into ...

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On the Conquest

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pp. 114-132

Even the briefest visit to Mexico leaves the visitor dizzy with contradictions. As we cross that subway landing in the national capital, the one they've built around a prehispanic pyramid, right in front of our eyes, past and present struggle for mastery. No corner of the country remains isolated enough to be free of polarities. I remember twenty-some...

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The Tour Guide

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pp. 133-140

Fictional narrative, some historians think, may not have existed much before Don Quijote. Indeed, the narrative in Virgil or Homer might have looked in 1500 very much like argument, or more specifically, like an illustration of stages in a soul's progress.

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Las Aventuras

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pp. 141-155

I spent the most introspective year of my life riding around in the back seat of a Mexican highway-patrol car. The two officers up front looked like Jack Webb and Ben Alexander, from the Dragnet TV series out of the midfifties. But these were the late seventies.