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Travis Mossotti writes with humor, gravity, and humility about subjects grounded in a world of grit, where the quiet mortality of working folk is weighed. To Mossotti, the love of a bricklayer for his wife is as complex and simple as life itself: "ask him to put into words what that sinking is, / that shudder in his chest, as he notices / the wrinkles gathering at the corners of her mouth." But not a whiff of sentiment enters these poems, for Mossotti has little patience for ideas of the noble or for sympathetic portraits of hard-used saints. His vision is clear, as clear as the memory of how scarecrows in the rearview, "each of them, stuffed / into a body they didn't choose, resembled / your own plight." His poetry embraces unsanctimonious life with all its wonder, its levity, and clumsiness. About the Dead is an accomplished collection by a writer in control of a wide range of experience.
Changing Stories About Writing and Writers
In the rational modern world, belief in the supernatural seemingly has been consigned to the worlds of entertainment and fantasy. Yet belief in other worldly phenomena, from poltergeists to telepathy, remains strong, as Gillian Bennett's research shows. Especially common is belief in continuing contact with, or the continuing presence of, dead family members. Bennett interviewed women in Manchester, England, asking them questions about ghosts and other aspects of the supernatural. (Her discussion of how her research methods and interview techniques evolved is in itself valuable.) She first published the results of the study in the well-received Traditions of Belief: Women and the Supernatural, which has been widely used in folklore and women's studies courses. "Alas, Poor Ghost!" extensively revises and expands that work. In addition to a fuller presentation and analysis of the original field research and other added material, the author, assisted by Kate Bennett, a gerontological psychologist, presents and discusses new research with a group of women in Leicester, England.
Bennett is interested in more than measuring the extent of belief in other worldly manifestations. Her work explores the relationship between narrative and belief. She anticipated that her questions would elicit from her interviewees not just yes or no replies but stories about their experiences that confirmed or denied notions of the supernatural. The more controversial the subject matter, the more likely individuals were to tell stories, especially if their answers to questions of belief were positive. These were most commonly individualized narratives of personal experience, but they contained many of the traditional motifs and other content, including belief in the supernatural, of legends. Bennett calls them memorates and discusses the cultural processes, including ideas of what is a "proper" experience of the supernatural and a "proper" telling of the story, that make them communal as well as individual. These memorates provide direct and vivid examples of what the storytellers actually believe and disbelieve. In a final section, Bennett places her work in historical context through a discussion of case studies in the history of supernatural belief.
An Eskimo Memoir of the 20th Century
Elizabeth B. Pinson shares with us her memories of Alaska's emergence into a new and modern era, bearing witness to history in the early twentieth century as she recalls it. She draws us into her world as a young girl of mixed ethnicity, with a mother whose Eskimo family had resided on the Seward Peninsula for generations and a father of German heritage. Growing up in and near the tiny village of Teller on the Bering Strait, Elizabeth at the age of six, despite a harrowing, long midwinter sled ride to rescue her, lost both her legs to frostbite when her grandparents, with whom she was spending the winter in their traditional Eskimo home, died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Fitted with artificial legs financed by an eastern benefactor, Elizabeth kept journals of her struggles, triumphs, and adventures, recording her impressions of the changing world around her and experiences with the motley characters she met. These included Roald Amundsen, whose dirigible landed in Teller after crossing the Arctic Circle; the ill-fated 1921 British colonists of Wrangel Island in the Arctic; trading ship captains and crews; prospectors; doomed aviators; and native reindeer herders. Elizabeth moved on to boarding school, marriage, and the state of Washington, where she compiled her records into this memoir and where she lived until her death in 2006.
Recollections of a Trader 1898-1948
Judge Wilson McCarthy and the Rescue of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad
Cowboy, judge, federal official, then business executive, Wilson McCarthy mirrored change and growth in the twentieth-century West. Leading the Denver & Rio Grande back from the brink saved a vital link in the national transportation system. The D&RGW ran over and through the scenic Rockies, developing mineral resources, fighting corporate wars, and helping build communities. The Depression brought it to its knees. Accepting federal assignment to save the line, McCarthy turned it into a paragon of mid-century railroading, represented by the streamlined, Vista-Domed California Zephyr, although success hauling freight was of more economic importance. Prior to that, McCarthy’s life had taken him from driving livestock in Canada to trying to drive the national economy as a director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the first line of federal attack on the Depression. Always a Cowboy positions McCarthy’s story in a rich historical panorama..
Will Bagley is the author of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
Native American Folklore in the West
Anonimo Mexicano is the first publication of the full Nahuatl text and English translation of a rare and important Native history of preconquest Mexico. Written circa 1600 by an anonymous Tlaxcaltecan author, it is an epic account of the settling of central Mexico by Nahua peoples from the northern frontier. They developed a sophisticated culture with powerful city states and an agricultural economy, fought great wars, established dynasties, and recorded their history and legends in painted books. The Mexica became the most powerful of these nations until their conquest by the Spanish with the help of the Tlaxcalteca, who were rivals of the Mexica and whose national origin tale was recorded in Anonimo Mexicano.